Affidavit details allegations that led to officer’s arrest on rape charge

photo by: Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office

Jonathan M. Gardner

A woman who has accused a former Lawrence police officer of rape claimed in an affidavit supporting his arrest that he assaulted her as he gave her a ride home more than five years ago and that she was afraid to report the incident.

According to the newly released affidavit, the woman was at a downtown Lawrence bar on Jan. 1, 2017, “drinking quite a bit” and misplaced her purse and cellphone. She said she became separated from her party and walked to a nearby hotel, where officers from the Lawrence Police Department happened to be. The woman asked an officer, later identified as Officer Jonathan Gardner, 41, of Tonganoxie, for a ride home. During the ride to a relative’s Lawrence home, Gardner assaulted her with his fingers, she said.

According to the affidavit, the woman, who was under 21 at the time, did not report the incident because she “was worried about potential consequences given the fact that she was on probation and had consumed alcohol that night.”

The woman said she told her mother of the incident shortly after it happened, even though she did not report it to police immediately.

The woman said the events of the night “clicked” when she was at the Lawrence Police Department four years later to make a report, in April 2021, and heard Gardner talk and ask her if she was the one he gave a ride to on that New Year’s Day. That’s when she realized he was the one who assaulted her, she said.

Gardner, when contacted by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation in November of 2021, said he recalled interacting with the woman and said that he gave her and a male subject a ride from the hotel. Gardner said he dropped off the male near the Oread Neighborhood and proceeded to drive the woman home. Gardner said the woman grabbed his hand and placed it in her lap, but he pulled his hand back.

During the drive, he said he parked for some time to figure out where exactly she wanted to be dropped off. During that time the GPS was not working on his patrol car, and he denied deactivating it; he also said he did not recall manually stopping the dash camera in his car. He told investigators he thought he was stopped for just a few minutes.

The woman, meanwhile, told investigators that she did not remember being parked and that it was possible that she had passed out from alcohol. She wondered if she had been “raped” while parked there.

Gardner then drove her to a home, and she discovered that she did not have the key. He said she again hit on him, and at that point, another officer came to pick up the woman to take her to another address. That officer, when asked by KBI agents, about the woman being “handsy,” as Gardner had claimed, said that he did not observe that sort of behavior in her.

The affidavit also indicates that Gardner searched for information related to the woman on the police department’s internal database multiple times between January 2017 and November 2021. He explained the searches as pursuant to “law enforcement purposes” and said he was contemplating off and on reporting that she had grabbed his hand during the ride.

The woman disclosed that she had been assaulted to medical personnel about a month after the alleged crime, KBI agents found, and she also told a therapist in May 2021 that she had been assaulted by a Lawrence police officer.

Gardner, who is no longer employed as a police officer, was arrested March 4 on suspicion of one count of rape, 12 counts of unlawful acts concerning computers and 12 counts of official misconduct. The charges of official misconduct and unlawful acts with computers claim Gardner, who had been with the department since 2013, committed illegal and unauthorized searches of the Kansas Criminal Justice Information System, as well as internal police department public safety systems.

Lawrence Police Chief Rich Lockhart, in a news release the morning of Gardner’s arrest, said: “I am appalled by the alleged conduct of Gardner. Those alleged actions are not consistent with the values of the department and, if true, Gardner violated the trust of the community he was sworn to serve.”

Gardner is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing in Douglas County District Court on May 31.


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