Brian Hornaday is the chief of the Herington Police Department in Kansas. He is at the center of a controversy that began when he shared a photo on Facebook of a McDonald’s coffee cup with the words “f*cking pig” written on it in marker. Hornaday said the photo had been taken by one of his officers after he was given the cup at the Junction City McDonald’s drive-thru while on his way to work on Saturday, December 28.
After reviewing surveillance video at the McDonald’s and talking to the officer, whose name hasn’t been released, Hornaday revealed on Monday, December 30, that the officer had “fabricated” the incident as a “joke.” Hornaday didn’t explain what the joke was supposed to be. He also didn’t apologize for the uproar that was created locally and around the country after he posted the story to social media on a Facebook account he shares with his wife. Hornaday refused to identify the officer, who is no longer with the department, saying it is a personnel matter.
Hornaday, 39, has been the chief of police in the small Kansas town of less than 3,000 people since 2018. He said the officer involved in the incident had worked for the department for about two months. The 23-year-old former officer joined the department after spending five years in the U.S. Army as a military police officer, Hornaday said.
“My reaction based on the initial incident was just my reaction based on what I believe, and that’s a police officer who is sworn to protect, their integrity is of the highest order, and it would be foolish of any law enforcement agency or professional to not take the word of their police officer until they can be proven otherwise,” Hornaday told reporters at a Monday press conference.
Hornaday has deleted his Facebook page and his department’s page has also been taken down. Hornaday told reporters he had discussed the incident with the local Dickinson County attorney’s office, but said he didn’t expect charges to be filed against the officer. The ex-officer lives in Junction City, Hornaday said.
Here’s what you need to know about Brian Hornaday:
1. The Story From Brian Hornaday’s Facebook Page Was Spread by Other Kansas Police Departments & Local News Stations Before Spreading to News Outlets Around the Country
The Herington Police Department chief posted a photo of the coffee cop with the vulgar anti-cop slur written on it to a Facebook page he shared with his wife, BrianandKelley Hornaday, on Saturday, December 28. In the post, Hornaday wrote that one of his officers had stopped to grab coffee at a McDonald’s on South Washington in Junction City on his way into work Monday morning. The post was made just before noon that same day.
“This is what he paid for. Although I understand this is likely the act of one person and not a representation of the company, when it was brought to their attention the company offered him a ‘free lunch,'” Hornaday wrote. “No thank you. A Big Mac and large fries doesn’t make up for it. The US Veteran who continues to serve deserves much more. This is not only bad for McDonalds, but is also a black eye for Junction City. I apologize for the foul language, but covering it up would take away the full effect. Please share!”
The image was then shared by several of his friends and others in the law enforcement community in Kansas, including the Geary County Sheriff’s Office, where he previously worked, and by the Junction City Police Department. The JCPD wrote on Facebook, “Unfortunately, this did happen to a Herrington Police Officer. We as a department are upset this occurred especially to an officer in another jurisdiction just stopping by to on his way to work. We would like that officer to know this is not representative of how the majority of residents in Junction City feel about law enforcement.”
The story was also picked up by local news stations in Kansas and spread across the country, with many local news stations in other states and national outlets, mostly those with a conservative audience, shared it and pushed it as an outrageous anti-police story.
But on Sunday, December 29, the story began to unravel. Dana Cook, the owner of the Junction City McDonald’s franchise, told KSNT-TV, “My McDonald’s have the utmost respect for all members of law enforcement and the military and were troubled by the accusation made. We thoroughly reviewed our security video from every angle, which clearly shows the words were not written by one of our employees. We look forward to working with Chief Hornaday as he continues his investigation.”
Hornaday told the news station he hadn’t seen the video clip, but said he wanted answers. “Acknowledgment that something was done wrong is kind of what we always want. Whether it’s something like this that happened at McDonald’s or in the criminal justice system.”
On Monday, Hornaday initially stood by his story that had created a national firestorm. “There is a whole lot more to the story than what is being portrayed online. Hopefully, McDonald’s will follow through with showing me the video that didn’t exist when I met with them Saturday night,” the chief told WIBW-TV.
But several hours later, Horanday deleted his initial Facebook post (and his entire page) and held a press conference following an emergency city commission to reveal the officer had fabricated the incident and was no longer with the department. He did not say if the officer was fired or resigned and did not identify the 23-year-old. A representative from the McDonald’s restaurant joined him at the press conference.
Lenor Brazzi, the director of operations for the franchisee, told reporters, “We appreciate the Herington Police Department’s efforts to thoroughly investigate this troubling incident. While we are glad that the evidence confirmed our evaluation that the McDonald’s and our crew members were absolutely not involved, we stand with the community in being disappointed in these actions. We took seriously our role to be transparent and fully cooperative with Chief Hornaday and his department throughout his investigation. We look forward to continuing our strong relationship with the department. Our McDonald’s family maintains great respect for the members of the law enforcement and our military. And it is with great pride that our restaurant is always open to them.”
2. Hornaday Says the Incident Is a ‘Black Eye’ for Law Enforcement
Chief Hornaday told reporters he wanted to thank the McDonald’s and its staff and employees for their cooperation and assistance, including their internal investigation that was done with the “intent of finding the truth.” Hornaday said the investigations concluded and found, “McDonald’s and its employees did not have anything to do whatsoever with this incident. This was completely and solely fabricated by a Herington police officer who is no longer employed with our agency. McDonald’s and its employees have been very helpful and cooperative in determining the actual facts of this matter. The actions of this former officer are absolutely in no way reflective of the values and the typical character of the Herington Police Department.”
Hornaday added, “The duty of every police officer is to protect and serve with the highest level of integrity and trust. This incident has been an obvious violation of that public trust. Moving forward, Herington Police Department will work to regain the loss of trust with both McDonald’s and with the citizens that we serve and any other person that this may have affected.”
The chief said, “This was meant to be a joke. However, we can see how something so serious can get out of control very, very quickly. The most important thing that could have been done and should have been done was to come forward immediately prior to damage being done, prior to this becoming a nationwide incident. Unfortunately, that was not done. All we can do is move forward with the knowledge that we know now and hopefully we can do something in the future to avoid these type of situations and to learn from it so we all grow and become stronger together.”
He said the incident is a “black eye on the law enforcement community.”
Hornaday did not take any personal responsibility or apologize for his role in spreading the fake story during the press conference and he could not be reached for comment by Heavy.
3. Brian Hornaday Was Hired as the Herington Police Chief in October 2018 & Said He ‘Inherited a Mess’
Brian Hornaday was hired as the chief of police for the Herington Police Department in October 2018. He told The Herington Times that same month that he “inherited a mess.”
During a meeting with the city commissioners, Hornaday said he had researched the department before taking over command and said he saw a failure in leadership. Hornaday said, “We’re going to gut the house to the bone and rebuild,” he said, according to the newspaper. He told the commissioners they would be putting in place a new manual and code of conduct headed by the phrase, “Vigilance, Honor, Integrity.”
Hornaday hired multiple new officers, including the officer who was fired or resigned after the McDonald’s incident, during his first year at the helm of the department. He told the commissioners the public had a “horrible” image of the department’s officers because of a lack of trust and feeling they weren’t doing their jobs, the local paper reported.
4. Hornaday Worked for Several Kansas Police Departments, Including as a Captain at the Geary County Sheriff’s Office, Before Becoming the Herington Chief
Hornaday worked for several police departments in Kansas before moving on to become the police chief in Herington. He wrote on Linkedin, “I worked for the Leavenworth County Sheriff’s Office, Wabaunsee County Sheriff’s Office, Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Office, and Fort Riley Police Department. I have also worked part-time for the St. Marys Police Department and Kansas State University Police Department.” He most recently worked for the Geary County Sheriff’s Office, from 2014 to 2018, as a captain.
“While at the Geary County Sheriff’s Office, I have served as a Lieutenant in the Patrol and Investigations Divisions and am currently in charge of the Support Division, hiring and promotion processes, is part of the Community Involvement Team and is the Public Information Officer (PIO),” he said on Linkedin.
Hornaday worked as a part-time officer in St. Marys from 2008 to 2015. From 2009 to 2014 he worked for the Fort Riley Police Department, leaving as a sergeant to move to Geary County. He was a deputy sheriff in Pottawatomie County from 2005 to 2008 and a deputy sheriff and jail supervisor in Wabaunsee County from 2004 to 2005. Hornaday worked as a detention officer for the Leavenworth County Sheriff’s Office from 2002 to 2004.
5. Brian Hornaday, an Arkansas Native, Served in the U.S. Army as a Military Police Corrections Specialist & Is Married With 2 Children
Brian Hornaday is originally from Arkansas. He served in the U.S. Army before becoming a police officer, according to his Linkedin profile. Hornaday is married and has two children.
“I was born and raised in southern Arkansas, but Kansas has been my home since 1997. Following high school, I enlisted in the US Army where I graduated from Military Police School in Fort McClellan, Alabama and then served as a Military Police Corrections Specialist for five years in the US Army,” he wrote on Linkedin.
Hornaday added, “I met my wife, Kelley, a native of Kansas, in 2002 and we have two children. I enjoys [sic] hunting, fishing, football, baseball and video games. I am an avid Royals, Chiefs and K-State fan and have been active in every community I have lived in, volunteering my time to coach baseball, softball and football since the summer of 2006. My favorite quote was made by NYPD Detective, Vernon Gerberth. ‘Remember. We work for God.'”
Hornaday said on Linkedin that he graduated from the U.S. Army Military Police School in 1997 and from the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center in 2005.