A grand jury on Wednesday indicted the Llano police chief and three of his officers on charges of unlawfully arresting a man in May. A fourth officer also was indicted on charges in a separate incident, but she left the force last summer.
Chief Kevin Ratliff and officers Aimee Shannon, Grant Harden and Jared Latta — who make up almost half of the police department in Llano, a town about 60 miles northwest of Austin — were indicted on a charge of official oppression, a Class A misdemeanor. Harden also was indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a government record to defraud or harm the person he arrested, court records say.
Additionally, former officer Melissa Sloan was indicted Wednesday on a charge of tampering with evidence and accused of destroying a digital recording of a drug crime scene on March 26. Sloan was let go from the department in June, according to The Picayune newspaper in Marble Falls.
The indictment regarding the chief and the three officers accuses them of unlawfully arresting Cory Nutt on May 2. Harden failed to state in his police report that “Nutt was inside his residence when he was arrested” or “that Cory Nutt was forced out of his residence and arrested,” the indictment says.
Shannon is also accused of “threatening to shoot (Nutt) with a Taser,” mistreatment that Shannon knew was unlawful, her indictment alleges.
Nutt was charged with public intoxication in the incident, but that charge was later dropped, said Ratliff’s attorney, Austin Shell. Nutt was outside his home, a camper, during part of his encounter with the officers, Shell said.
“It’s my belief that stepping up into the camper to arrest this man is what caused the indictment,” and Ratliff stepped up to help Nutt down so Nutt wouldn’t be injured in the process, Shell said.
“It’s the chief’s position that he acted with the utmost discretion,” Shell said. “He was not violent. He didn’t use any sort of force at all. Even though Mr. Nutt was very intoxicated, Chief Ratliff behaved the way an officer would be expected to act.”
Harden’s attorney, Travis Williamson, said he believes the charges will not hold up in court.
“Although the four officers were indicted, I believe once the case goes to a jury in an open and public setting, I have every confidence that all four of them will be vindicated and they’ll be found not guilty,” Williamson said.
Williamson said he doesn’t think prosecutors will be able to show that the chief and these officers intentionally violated the law.
“Even if you’re mistaken about what rights as a police officer you have in searching a home and making an arrest, the state has to prove you knew it was a violation, and I just don’t believe the state’s going to come anywhere close to proving that,” Williamson said.
Ratliff, Shannon, Harden and Latta were all placed on leave while the incident is investigated. City officials have appointed officer Kenneth Poe as interim chief.
Harden was already on leave after a grand jury indicted him in December and accused him of tampering with dashboard camera footage during a DWI investigation in June 2017, according to a report from The Picayune newspaper in Marble Falls.