Picking Locks, False Arrests, and Other Abuses of Power Lead to Indictments Against the Majority of a Texas Police Department

Two thirds of the Llano Police Department stand accused of abusing their power.


|||Screenshot via KXAN
Screenshot via KXAN

The bulk of a Texas police department has been wiped out by a series of grand jury indictments. The Llano Police Department had just nine employees, nearly two-thirds of whom have now been indicted for misconduct and abuse of power.

The central incident took place in May 2017, when a body camera captured footage of resident Cory Nutt confrontation with Police Chief Kevin Ratliff and Officers Grant Harden, Jared Latta, and Aimee Shannon.

Nutt yelled at Harden for speeding in the neighborhood late at night. The four approached Nutt at his home and asked him to step outside to speak with them. Nutt refused and asked why the officers wanted him outside. Rather than present any kind of warrant, the cops accused him of public drunkenness. They spent several minutes threatening to call Nutt's supervisor and have him fired from his job, and they also pointed a taser towards Nutt, switching between his crotch and his abdomen, and threatened to deploy it should he not comply. He said "Please don't" and walked outside, where he was then arrested and taken to jail.

The public drunkenness charges against Nutt were later dropped. The four were subsequently indicted on charges related to abuse of power. All but Ratliff pleaded not guilty.

Harden also received several indictments for tampering with dash camera footage during a DWI stop, tampering with arrest footage, using excessive force, and unlawful arrest. At one point, Harden allegedly attempted to falsely charge a woman with assaulting a public servant and resisting arrest. He is also accused of assaulting another woman and attempting to charge her with resisting arrest.

Another incident led to indictments against Officer Mark Burke and Llano County Deputy Duncan Roberts. When Roberts and Burke responded to a domestic dispute in June, the woman who made the call met them in her driveway. She told them that her live-in boyfriend, Clay Holley, tried to keep her and her children from leaving the house, said that he didn't hit her, and walked back inside the house and locked the door. The pair knocked on the door several times to no avail. This prompted Burke to use a lock pick kit and begin working on the door. While the men picked the lock, Holley insisted from inside that they had no business entering. Burke yelled at one point, "Open the door or we're coming through it! A domestic occurred here, we're going to conduct an investigation." While Burke trained his taser, Roberts kicked the door in. The men then placed Holley in handcuffs and put him in the back of their patrol unit. Holley sat there for an hour before his handcuffs were removed. He was let go without being charged for a crime.

This incident was also captured by a body camera.

Shannon and Latta have since been suspended, Ratliff and Harden were terminated, and Burke resigned. Roberts is on paid administrative leave. Asked if there was a climate of corruption within the department, City Manager Scott Edmonson replied, "Uh, no."

NEXT: Trump Readies $6 Billion Bailout for Farmers Harmed by Trump Tariffs

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. So wait, all this sounds like perfectly ordinary normal cop behavior. Whose ox got gored enough to push all those indictments through? Who brought the complaints in the first place, and to whom did they complain?

    This would be useful information for other jurisdictions with abusive (ir ordinary, normal) cops.

    1. This was my thought. What miracle occurred that this happened?

      1. Yeah, these cases sound pretty much exactly like so many others that didn't get indictments.

        In fact, the "assaulted citizen and then charged her with resisting arrest" is pretty much a trope at this point. Police almost never face even internal discipline for this practice... not even for the false charges, let alone the assault.

        And the police have broad authority when investigating reports of violence like a domestic abuse case, so I'm surprised that there was an indictment for entering the house while investigating. Again, this seems pretty much like standard practices for the police.

        Maybe the DA or someone else higher up has it in for the Sheriff?

    2. My guess is people have been complaining about similar abuses for some time, and the complaints were finally getting notice from the people in the city government, or the local DA, or the state Attorney General.

    3. It's a tiny department. They probably just don't have the resources to bury it the way larger departments do.

  2. I hate to judge, but this appears to be a department whose corrupt culture came from the top.

    1. I am so disappointed in these boys in blue. A few bad apples like these can besmirch the whole noble profession, and even put a dent in the divine armor of public trust that keeps us all feeling safe. Without these literal paladins patroling our streets, we'd be tearing off each others' scrotums while fighting over the steaming livers of our freshly cudgeled neighbors' bodies.

      1. This sounds like a great setting for a novel of some kind.

  3. Asked if there was a climate of corruption within the department, City Manager Scott Edmonson replied, "Uh, no."

    "Corruption," He went on to say, "implies a deviation or perversion away from an office's intended purpose. But since police departments are structured to weed out all applicants except for insecure bullies, and cops are incentivized to make arrests, trained to respond to all situations with maximum force, and never punished for neglecting due process or abusing their power, I would say that this department is operating precisely as intended."

    1. Well said. Like cheese, the whole point is to be rotten.

  4. It would help in the story to make clear immediately if these were federal or state indictments. It makes a huge difference.

  5. I would guess that Case law they will try to use will be qualified immunity.

    "The cases that were indicted recently in Llano County involve complicated constitutional and legal principles that lawyers, judges and constitutional scholars cannot even agree on?When you start prosecuting police officers for official oppression based on grey or unsettled areas of law; they are not taught that law in the academy or subsequent training, or there are no policies or procedures available you are soon going to run into a situation where officers will hesitate to act - this will result in an innocent victim or Officer being seriously injured or worse." - Travis Williamson, Officer Grant Harden's Attorney"

    "Chief Ratliff guilty of all three counts against him in the Nutt case. The jury determined Ratliff omitted the facts related to Nutt's case. The chief had originally pleaded not guilty to the charges. He was then sentenced to six months in jail but the judge probated his sentence for a year so he won't have to serve any jail time.

    "My attorney is working on an appeal now, so I can't say anything just yet," Ratliff told KXAN when contacted this week. "When it's all said and done, I have a lot to tell. There's case law that justifies what we did."

    1. There's case law that justifies what we did."
      Remember the hills too unimportant to die on and the unsympathetic accused? The courts remember.

  6. power of police department in hands of nine people shocker

  7. I may never understand what compels a person to take a job that is mostly about ruining other people's lives and looking them in the eyes while doing it.

    1. I dunno. Some people are just fucking assholes. In this country, they can get paid to be assholes and retire after 20 years with a comfy pension and the cop unions and politicians have conspired to write laws that makes them almost completely unaccountable. So why wouldn't you do that job?

    2. Did you never go to either middle or high school or something? That was pretty much 7 years of people ruining my life and looking me in the eye while they did it. There are definitely people in that crowd, whom if you informed me had become cops for that very purpose, I would not be in the slightest surprised by the revelation.

      1. Somehow I was never really bullied despite being a big nerd, but that mostly had to do with being in honors program and rarely interacting with the hard cases. There were one or two psychopaths among my friends and acquaintances, one of whom in particular saw it as his personal mission to break me. He never quite achieved it, and I think that, in turn, broke him.

        One kid I remember from like 6th grade was constantly annoyed by my friends' antics and acted like he was so much more mature because he knew stuff about tits and drugs and stuff. It was admittedly a nice feeling running across his mugshot on the internet.

        The one guy who was positively obsessed with all things cops (toy cop cars, rent-a-cop job, the perfect face-forward form of obesity) seemed fairly passive in a retard kind of way.

        I can't internalize the idea of getting a rush out of making complete strangers suffer, that's all.

  8. When asked if Edmonson could be certain of that given the city's done nothing to investigate that angle, Edmonson replied, "Can we be sure of anything?"

    Say what you will about the tenets of Pyrrhonism, at least it's an ethos.

    1. Like, do you ever wonder if the black skin of the man we just beat to death looks the same to you as it does to me?

  9. Cop was totally justified in kicking down that door, after all it failed to comply with his picking attempts.

    1. The door *found itself in a state of being kicked in.*

  10. The sheriff disciplined Roberts the Monday after the incident and stripped him of his police powers and put Roberts on paid administrative leave when the indictment came down. Blackburn didn't allow Roberts to sit at home to earn his pay, he put his deputy to work in the county jail until the criminal charges are resolved.

    "I think for the citizens of the county, if he's going to be on paid leave, he should be working for it," Blackburn said.

    "I'm not paying him to sit at home and kick the dog. If he's on the county dime, it better be county prisoners he's kicking."

  11. They do it cause, well, we can:


    The FBI, sworn to uphold the Constitution.

  12. All Cops deserve to be shot in the face. 200 years ago a person would have been in their rights to kill these thug pigs .
    Now the Thug Pigs get away with crimes ? of the time.
    These Thug Pigs should have been shot in the face

    1. It actually is legal in Texas to use deadly force in the situation Nutt was in. That said, my CHL instructor (a former cop himself) pointed out while covering that part of the law that cops are the biggest street gang in the world, and if you shoot one of them the others won't care why.

  13. The homeowner should have shot and killed the illegal home invaders intent on doing him harm!

  14. Very Nice Article keep sharing this post kindly check
    windows driver

  15. With great power...

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.