A police officer has been cleared following investigations into his social media posts which included describing how he wanted to “hunt the left,” hit protesters with vehicles, and suggest there could “very well be fighting in the streets” if the 2020 Election turns out to be rigged.
Both the FBI and the Knoxville Police Department’s (KPD) Internal Affairs Unit launched a review into Bernhard “Chip” Braeuner Facebook posts amid concerns he was violating his department’s social media policy or even inciting violence, reported WBIR.
LaKenya Middlebrook, former executive director of the Knoxville’s Police Advisory and Review Committee (PARC), said some of the officer’s posts “seem to advocate physical harm and/or death of people who had differing views,” at an August 26 meeting.
The Knoxville Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit ruled that Braeuner did not violate any social media policy, which state officers cannot post something that impedes the performance of duties or negatively impacts the public perception of the department.
“Investigator Braeuner was exonerated based on several determinations that were made in the course of the Internal Affairs review. Per department policy, KPD employees have a right to have personal web pages such as Facebook and are free to express themselves as private citizens,” Knoxville Police Department spokesperson Scot Erland told Newsweek.
“Through the Facebook page that was the subject of the IAU review, Investigator Braeuner did not identify himself as a KPD officer, nor did he make any statements that could reasonably be considered to represent the views of the KPD, either of which would have been violations of departmental policy.”
The posts were shared via Braeuner’s alternative Facebook account using the pseudonym “Emmanuel Goldstein,” a reference to the character in George Orwell’s novel 1984, who is seen as the main enemy of the state.
Among some of the hundreds of reviewed posts, photos, comments and memes shared on the page since August 2020 were him discussing setting up a “Portland safari” business allowing people to “hunt the left” in the Oregon city which frequently sees antifa and Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
“May God grant them martyrdom in the name of their BLM racial purity and communism,” he wrote. “They obviously need more martyrs so they know what they are truly fighting for.”
Braeuner also shared a photo of a bloodied pickup truck with the caption The new Dodge RAM prostester [sic] edition, adding: “I’m in the market for a new truck. Kinda leaning toward ordering this one.”
In an October 2020 post criticizing apparent censorship by social media companies, he wrote: “The next step may very well be fighting in the streets after an election is stolen and the deep state FBI is used against the citizens of this country for thinking for themselves.”
Braeuner also shared an online quiz which ranked his likelihood to “snap and kill someone” as 111 percent.
In December 2020, one day after the Supreme Court denied a last-ditch effort to overturn the election results, the officer described SCOTUS as “waste of human flesh” and “nothing more than the collection of body parts from a late term abortion.”
There were also concerns that the officer may have been planning to commit violence at the Capitol on January 6, in which a mob of Donald Trump supporters and far-right extremists attempted to block the certification of Joe Biden‘s election victory.
The FBI investigated the officer in the wake of the January 6 insurrection for alleged “participation in the spreading of sedition” after an anonymous tipster said he used a second Facebook account to share “several posts about the coming violence” ahead of the Capitol attack.
The FBI said Braeuner did not break any federal laws with the post and told the KPD they intend on closing the investigation.
The department then opened its own inquiry to determine if the posts violated their social media policies.
“We feel very comfortable though, because the FBI investigated him on what pretty much ended up being a frivolous complaint over this very issue,” KPD Chief Eve Thomas told PARC.
In his April 2021 interview with Internal affairs investigators, Braeuner denied that he would ever carry out any of the violence acts referenced in his posts, saying they were nothing more than “dark humor.”
“As far as ever espousing violence, I never had,” he said. “I hope everybody can see that this is kind of a farfetched kind of thing. It’s not something that I can really do or would do, have any inclination to do.”