PUTNAM COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Putnam County man who was accused of building bombs after posting a video to Facebook asking, “Hey ATF, let me know if this is legal” has been indicted on three federal charges.
A federal grand jury for the Middle District of Tennessee returned an indictment charging Levi Austin Flatt with possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number, possession of a destructive device, and making a destructive device, according to documents filed on Friday, Sept. 8.
The charges stem from an investigation that began on Monday, Aug. 7 after a detective with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office came across Flatt’s video that showed him 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 could 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.”
A criminal complaint said Flatt turned to face the camera at the end of the video, and Putnam County detectives were able to identify him based on their previous encounters. Sheriff Eddie Farris told News 2 deputies have had at least “40 interactions” with Flatt since 2018.
The sheriff’s office notified the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which had an agent submit an urgent National Firearm Registration and Transfer Record search. According to the complaint, no weapons were registered to Flatt.
Agents also obtained a search warrant for his home in Baxter. Authorities said Flatt drove his van to the Putnam County Highway Department, as well as Walmart, all while heading in the direction of the Putnam County Fair before they spotted him pulling into a hotel.
“Something prompted him to go down this road, and we are just thankful to get that stopped,” Farris told News 2 after his arrest.
Deputies 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 in a cooler near the back door of the van. 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 9mm ammunition, a tactical carry vest, three additional “suspected destructive devices” and a Walmart receipt for a propane tank.
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. However, he reportedly denied any intent to cause harm, and instead told them he only wanted to see the device explode between two hay bales on his grandmother’s property.