PUTNAM COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Putnam County man got a visit from federal agents this week after reportedly uploading a video to Facebook in which he could be heard saying, “Hey ATF, let me know if this is legal.”
According to a criminal complaint filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, Levi Austin Flatt is now facing several federal charges in violation of the National Firearms Act.
A detective with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office reportedly came across Flatt’s video on Monday, Aug. 7. Authorities said the video showed Flatt holding a plastic bottle, a wine bottle and a galvanized pipe with an endcap affixed to the end.
The three items were taped together with what appeared to be yellow tape, and investigators said black and white braided electrical wires were hanging from the device.
In the video, Flatt can reportedly be heard saying, “Hey ATF, let me know if this is legal, a pound of Tannerite, a pipe bomb, and a wine bottle full of diesel…oh is that legal ATF… just let me know about this… somebody let me know.”
At the end of the video, the complaint said Flatt turned the camera toward his face, and Putnam County detectives were able to identify him based on their previous encounters with Flatt. They then notified the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
That same day, a special agent with the ATF submitted an urgent National Firearm Registration and Transfer Record search, which found that there were no weapons registered to Flatt. Agents also obtained a search warrant for his home in Baxter.
Putnam County Sheriff’s deputies later spotted Flatt getting into a white Chevrolet van with a broken taillight, according to the complaint. Authorities said he drove to the Putnam County Highway Department, as well as Walmart, while heading in the direction of the Putnam County Fair.
Deputies stopped Flatt as he pulled into an extended stay hotel and ordered him to get out of the van, at which point, he allegedly made unprompted statements such as “it would not go off” and that “it was in a cooler.” Flatt was placed in a patrol car while federal agents and a bomb technician drove to the area.
Once there, Flatt reportedly told officials the device was located near the back door of the van in a cooler. Authorities said he initially advised there was no power source, but later clarified there was an 18-volt impact drill battery inside the cooler that was not connected to the device.
According to the complaint, Flatt admitted to purchasing two half pound exploding target mixtures two weeks ago, as well as several other items used to create the device. Officials also searched the van after Flatt told them he had a loaded gun and two Molotov cocktails inside.
In addition to those items, investigators reportedly found seven extended magazines containing a total of 145 rounds of 9 mm ammunition, a tactical carry vest, three additional “suspected destructive devices” and a Walmart receipt for a propane tank bought on Monday.
A search of his home also turned up numerous unknown liquids and electrical wires. According to the complaint, the devices involved in the investigation met the statutory definition of improvised explosive and incendiary bombs.
After the searches, authorities said Flatt admitted to building three of the bombs at his home the day before. Flatt was taken into custody and charged with four federal offenses in violation of the National Firearms Act.
The charges against him include possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number, possession of a destructive device, possession of a destructive device not registered in the National Firearm Registration and Transfer Record and making a destructive device.
“I am thankful for the partnership that is held with the ATF as well as the THP,” said Putnam County Sheriff Eddie Farris. “This was great work by everyone involved and many lives may have been saved by the quick response. This type of criminal behavior will not be tolerated. Everyone has the right to feel safe in this community and we work daily to ensure their safety.”