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In the wake of the killing of one of their own officers, Bardstown Police are now dealing with threats against other cops.
Police Chief Rick McCubbin said Tuesday morning that his department received multiple threats — by letter, phone and social media.
“I can’t say a lot. I can confirm that we have received threats, written and verbal, and they have been turned over to the FBI,” he said.
“They were non-specific threats,” McCubbin said, explaining that they were not directed against any particular officer or officers.
“The specific language, I can’t put out, but the basic gist of them was that there were more to come,” he said. “We’re going to treat them as if they’re credible.”
McCubbin received a letter or note addressed to him last Thursday. After the Louisville television station WDRB reported late Monday night that a source had revealed there were threats against the lives of Bardstown police officers, the police chief confirmed that he had received the letter. He said he has no suspects as to who sent it.
McCubbin also told the Standard there had been a telephone call from “a second party” about a threat, and that the Kentucky State Police have talked with that person.
Also, there have been threatening statements on social media, he said. One message said, “One down, 25 to go.”
“We’re following up on every lead, every tip,” McCubbin said. “When people are making threats on social media, we pay them a visit.”
The reference in the post was to Bardstown Officer Jason Ellis, 33, who was killed by shotgun blasts while clearing some debris from the roadway on the Exit 34 ramp of Blue Grass Parkway at the Bloomfield Road (Ky. 55) about 2 a.m. on May 25. Investigators believe someone put the debris in the road as part of a plan to ambush Ellis.
Ellis, the city’s only K-9 (canine) officer, was on his way home to Chaplin after work when he was killed. He was driving a pool car that didn’t have an on-dash video camera, and he didn’t have his dog with him. He was wearing a bullet-proof vest, and never drew his weapon. He also never radioed to dispatch that there was a problem.
McCubbin said city police are working with the Kentucky State Police, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
The fact that the threats were made through the mail makes it a federal crime, he said.
Federal marshals were seen around Bardstown Monday, but they were helping city police look for people to serve warrants on, McCubbin said, adding that most were parole violators. Marshals assist the police with that about twice a year, he said, and it is routine. However, they are also in town working on the threats, he said.
Master Trooper Norman Chaffins, a spokesman for State Police Post 4 in Elizabethtown, said Tuesday police have received “questionable documents” from Bardstown Police related to the threats.
“We’ve received many documents, including mail matters,” he said. “Everything we receive from them, we turn over to the FBI.”
Chaffins said he can’t say what was in the letter because it could hinder the investigation. For example, he said, if police released the wording of the letter and someone called and said he sent it, “it would be hard for us to authenticate what’s in the letter” because the caller would know.
McCubbin said police have no way of knowing whether the messages are credible or from cranks.
“We’re going to treat them as if they are credible,” he said.
He added that police aren’t going to be cowed.
“We’re not going to run around here in fear,” he said. “We still have a community to respond to … and we’re going to move forward.”
Even before they received threats, McCubbin said, the department had put in place heightened security following the recent murder of Ellis. On every call, at least two officers respond now.
In an interview last week, McCubbin talked about how Ellis’ death has affected his department and the community. He said the tragedy has changed people’s perspective about the place where they live.
While most of the crimes police investigate here are property crimes such as thefts and burglaries, he said, the same dangers officers face in large cities are also here.
He said that with the recent growth the city has experienced, Bardstown has changed from the idyllic small town many longtime residents remember.
“I think that woke a lot of people up,” he said. “Even small-town Bardstown isn’t immune. There’s a whole new crop of people who call themselves Bardstonians.”
Police are seeking the public’s help in finding out who killed Ellis. They are offering a reward of more than $125,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the officer’s killer. Those with any information may contact the Kentucky State Police, the Bardstown Police Department or any law enforcement agency.
Last week, Kentucky State Police requested anyone with information of tree trimming or removal in the Nelson County area to contact them with any details they might know. The agency has received hundreds of tips since that time, Chaffins said, but they are still looking for that one tip that leads to a big break in the case.
People with information may text tips to 67283. They should type KSP TIP in all caps in the message field, leave a space and then enter the information. People may also leave tips on the KSP website at www.kentuckystatepolice.org.
The information is anonymous, and Chaffins said police can help if someone fears for his safety following a credible tip.
“There could be some protection we could offer them,” he said.
Editor Forrest Berk-shire also contributed to this article.