A former Utah police officer who won one of his department’s highest honors for a false murder arrest has been charged with crossing the “thin blue line” in the Jan. 6 plot to overthrow the U.S. government.
The FBI’s joint terrorism task force, along with Utah’s State Bureau of Investigation, arrested retired Salt Lake City police officer Michael Lee Hardin on Friday, or, as the New York Post describes it, took Hardin “into custody without incident.” Apparently, the deadly “incident” at the Capitol where three officers died doesn’t count. According to the criminal complaint, Hardin was charged with knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly conduct in a Capitol Building; and parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol Building.
The 50-year-old sedition enthusiast retired from the Salt Lake City Police Department in 2017 after serving about two decades. In 2012, Hardin was awarded the Officer of the Year for arresting Thomas Pennington on first-degree murder charges in the 25-year-old cold case of Patricia Ramirez, who was strangled and left for dead on July 13, 1986.
Prosecutors later dismissed the charges against Pennington when investigators found evidence that he was not involved in the murder. Apparently, Hardin overlooked Pennington’s documents that showed Pennington was working 40 hours per week during the time of the murder. The alleged insurrectionist detective also disregarded the fact that Ramirez’s murder took place on the week of Pennington’s wedding, “as attested to by a marriage license, and a photograph of the newly married couple with the pastor who performed the service” the Salt Lake Tribune reports. Also, Pennington’s wedding and work schedule would have made it difficult to participate in the crime for another important reason:
He was living in Kansas City, Mo., at the time.
Hardin, however, will find it more difficult to prove his own innocence. According to court documents; two of Hardin’s longtime friends, “voluntarily, without financial compensation of other enticement,” informed the FBI of the former officer’s participation the Jan. 6 flash lynch mob at the U.S. Capitol Building. The FBI also recovered text messages saying: “We stormed the Capitol, I am in here now!” and “I know you don’t like Trump, but He is the rightful President!” One of the friends even offered federal agents a photo of Hardin posing in the Capitol crypt alongside a bust of Abraham Lincoln.
Since the attempted coup, The Root has documented at least 25 law enforcement officials who attended the Jan. 6 events, including:
- Thomas Webster, an NYPD officer who was charged with attacking members of the Capitol Police force.
- Laura Steele, a High Point, N.C., woman who served as a K-9 officer and a SWAT team member. She is married to Kenneth Steele, who served as the city’s assistant police chief. She is also allegedly affiliated with the far-right militia, the Oath Keepers.
- Tam Pham, a Houston, Texas, police officer.
- Nicholes Lentz, a former cop in North Miami Beach, Fla.
- Six Seattle police officers whose names have not yet been released.
- Jacob Fracker and Thomas Robinson, two Rocky Mount, Va., police officers.
- Marissa Suarez a former corrections officer in Monmouth County, N.J.
- Terry Brown, a former Lebanon, Penn., public safety officer.
- Seven Southeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority police officers who are being investigated
- Chris West Canadian County, Okla. (not charged)
- Joseph Fischer, a North Cornwall, Pa., Township Police Department officer.
- Davis Ellis of Troy, N.H., who still serves as the town’s chief of police.
Hardin did not offer an alibi during his court appearance on Friday.