On June 6, the Austin Police Department fired off a cheery message on Twitter. The tweet featured several photos of a stack of thank-you cards, purportedly from well-wishers who just wanted to cheer up the police officers.
“We can’t express enough how grateful we are to serve you, Austin,” the tweet said. “Our officers have been working around the clock during these unprecedented times and thank everyone who took the time to write and make our day a little brighter.”
The tweet appeared just a week after some officers had fired “nonlethal” rounds into a crowd of protesters outside APD headquarters, striking a pregnant woman and catastrophically injuring a sixteen-year old boy and a twenty-year-old Texas State student. The incidents soon led to calls for the police chief to step down.
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Internet sleuths and journalists immediately noticed some strange details about the greeting cards, calling into question their authenticity. The tweet showed many envelopes with “thank you” written in identical handwriting, each bearing a characteristic sloping “T.” One of the notes inside the cards was signed, vaguely, by “family and friends.” There were no stamps or return addresses. Had APD manufactured a self-serving PR stunt amid calls for the police department to be defunded?
In a statement issued the day after the tweet was posted, a department spokesperson tried to put the rumors to rest: “The cards were from several community members to include kindergartners and Austin families, who wanted to show support for APD officers. Two people, who organized delivering the cards in person, addressed the envelopes with a ‘Thank you,’ so our officers would open the notes to receive encouragement during these difficult times. That is why the front of the envelopes appear to have the same handwriting.”
But APD wouldn’t say who had dropped off the letters, and the mystery lingered. To see if we could get to the bottom of it, Texas Monthly obtained photos of the thank-you cards through an open records request. Although we ultimately couldn’t determine their origin, some of the cards are deeply strange.
“Please know that there are many who believe in you and stand with you,” one of the thank-you notes said. “Our prayers are for your safety and that this passes with positivity and not negativity. You have one of the toughest jobs. These people who are upset don’t understand.” Some of the cards had puppies and American flags on them. One card said, “thanks a Latte!”
It remains unclear who sent the cards. Most were unsigned, and of those with signatures most did not include full names. Texas Monthly wasn’t able to reach any of the signatories. None of the envelopes bore return addresses. APD officials declined to answer additional questions about the origin of the cards.
Of the approximately 185 cards obtained through the open records request, at least 30 were signed by the same person, a “Cheryl Walters,” sometimes appearing as “Cheryl and friends” or “Cheryl and family.” (Calls to five Austin-area phone numbers associated with the name Cheryl Walters were not returned.) About eight of the cards were signed by “the Monroe family,” and around nine were sent by “the Millers.” Forty-six of the cards had the same bizarre message, often typed and printed onto a page that was taped to the inside of the card:
In case you forgot to remind yourself this morning…
Your butt is perfect.
Your smile lights up the room.
Your mind is cool.
You are way more than enough.
You are doing a great job.
Aside from the strange fixation on police posteriors, additional evidence suggests that the cards were sent from an alternate reality, where Austin police didn’t kill Mike Ramos or shoot peaceful protesters such as Levi Ayala and Justin Howell.
“We’re in awe of police officer’s self-control and of how professionally you respond to extreme challenges.”
“We recognize your selflessness in serving our community. Thank you for working hard to keep us ALL safe—even when this country is in this state of turmoil. Thank you for your commitment to keep us safe. We are praying for you!”
“Heroes are remembered forever. Especially by those who care. Today those who are creating these tough times will be a bit in time. You will always be remembered as a hero.”
Some of the letters appeared to have been written by young children, with crudely drawn crayon messages. “Thank you! Jesus loves you!” two-year old Jillian wrote on one card, in squiggly blue and orange crayon. One card did hint at where it and others may have originated. “We learned to appreciate you through the CPA classes and volunteering with the CPA alumni association,” the card said, possibly referring to APD’s Citizen Police Academy. Several cards quoted a verse from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount that is often featured on “Blue Lives Matter” merchandise: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”