LLANO, Texas (KXAN) – An internal memo obtained by KXAN’s Investigative Team accused a Llano police officer of making social media threats that caused an evacuation of the county courthouse there on Wednesday. We’ve also confirmed the officer, Grant Harden, was put on “paid leave” Friday, according to Llano’s police chief.
The memo, commonly known as a teletype, is a written message sent between law enforcement agencies and the Texas Department of Public Safety. The system allows DPS to share information with “over 100,000 Criminal Justice employees,” the TxDPS website shows.
The message obtained by KXAN was sent from a DPS office in Austin at 6:54 a.m. Thursday morning to Llano-area law enforcement, the document shows. The document identifies the subject of the communication as “Matthew Grant Harden” as a “Police officer with Llano PD.”
The document states Officer Harden made a threat during the early morning hours. “Currently it is unsure if warrants have been entered for Harden, but Harden has made Facebook posts with threats against anyone who comes in contact with him and that everyone will ‘Remember his name,’” the document states.
The communication continues, “Harden is not allowed at the Llano jail and the Llano County Sheriff [sic] Office is refusing to accept any prisoners from him. Harden is not allowed in their facilities,” the memo states.
“I can confirm the teletype,” Llano County Sheriff Bill Blackburn told KXAN by phone Saturday when contacted for details on why Harden was banned from all Llano County Sheriff’s Office facilities.
“I really don’t want to answer that, it’s an ongoing investigation,” the sheriff said. Blackburn did confirm Harden was under investigation and has been banned from the sheriff’s office and the jail “for about six months.”
Llano Police Chief Kevin Ratliff said he placed Harden on “paid leave” Friday for “a completely separate incident that involves an outside agency.” Ratliff would not give details on what the separate incident involves.
Ratliff, who was aware of the DPS teletype when contacted Saturday, said everything in it was “a lie.” The chief was also aware of the allegations of the Facebook “threat” in the DPS document, but said Harden posted lyrics to his Facebook page from the Stoney Larue song, “Going Down in Flames,” which includes the lines, “If I’m going down, I’m going down in flames. From this moment on, aint nothin gonna be the same. One thing’s for certain, everybody’s gonna know my name.”
Ratliff indicated those lyrics could be the cause of the alleged threat DPS detailed in the memo. Ratliff admitted he did not know who reported the Facebook posting to DPS, why the agency found it credible, or why the agency sent the teletype Thanksgiving Day.
We asked the sheriff if the courthouse was evacuated, but the sheriff said he couldn’t “confirm” the courthouse was evacuated, but he knew some offices closed early Wednesday. When asked if the closing could be related to the Thanksgiving holiday, “it could be part of the reason,” Blackburn said.
“All of it’s untrue,” Harden told KXAN by phone Saturday, “But, I’m not going to speak about the matter.” Harden said the courthouse evacuation allegations in the DPS teletype and the ongoing investigation, “Those two things are completely unrelated.”
When asked for an interview, Harden declined, instead telling KXAN Investigative Reporter Jody Barr that he’d contact his attorney and have his attorney return our call for comment. As of this report, we have not heard from Harden’s attorney.
“I’ve already got people out to get me,” Harden said, when denying the allegations of a Facebook threat made in the DPS teletype.
According to the city of Llano’s Facebook page, Harden was named the city’s Employee of the Quarter in April 2016.
“What I can say is the city council and city management, we’re going to definitely be determined to look into everything that’s going on to try to figure out fact from fiction, to make sure we do what’s right for the citizens of Llano and the people that have allegations against them,” said Llano City Councilman Craig Bauman.
Bauman did not know about the DPS memo until contacted by KXAN Saturday. Bauman, however, was aware of other allegations made against Llano police officers that became the subject of council discussions Monday evening.
Bauman said he did not have any details on any of the allegations being investigated, but confirmed the Llano County District Attorney’s Office was actively investigating allegations involving “more than one” Llano police officer.
“I just don’t know where the truth is here,” Bauman said.
Bauman said council is also conducting an “internal review” of numerous allegations of misconduct involving multiple members of the Llano Police Department detailed in a 25-page letter from a former Llano Police Department member, Bauman said.
That internal investigation is still ongoing.