The following is a report from Lewis Blanchard, Chief Deputy, Burke County Sheriff’s Office
At approximately 2:30am Richmond County Sheriff’s Office responded to a residence on the 1000 block of Caddenwoods Drive in reference to a possible burglary involving and off duty BCSO Deputy firing his personal weapon at a suspect. Today, Richmond County Investigators along with Burke County Investigators presented the following.
– At approximately 2am Deputy Gardner was called by a neighbor advising that his front door was open and a possible burglary was or had taken place.
– At approximately 2am Deputy Gardner drove to his residence and observed his front door was open when he arrived at an unknown specific time which is estimated to be around 2:20am. Deputy Gardner stated that he drew his personal weapon, entered his residence and searched the bottom and top floor of the residence. Deputy Garner stated that he then went downstairs and out the back door where he observed a male leaving his yard and jumping his back fence at which time he shot at the suspect multiple times. Deputy Gardner advised on two separate occasions that the suspect was not armed.
– At approximately 2:25am, Deputy Gardner stated he called 911 and waited on RCSO Deputies to arrive.
– At approximately 2:30am, RCSO Deputies arrived, secured the scene, brought in additional personnel including canines and searched the area to no avail.
– At approximately 3:30am, RCSO Investigators and BCSO Investigative Captain Jason Vinson questioned Deputy Garner about the incident in which he acknowledged repeatedly shooting at a perceived unarmed subject fleeing his property over the back fence. During this interview, it was noted that Deputy Gardner smelled of alcohol and appeared to be intoxicated.
– At approximately 3:45am Captain Vinson, the BCSO Duty Commander for the evening notified Sheriff Williams and Chief Blanchard.
– Upon conclusion of interviewing Deputy Gardner at 4:38am, they asked Deputy Gardner to blow into a alco-sensor to test his alcohol level which showed a positive reading.
– At approximately 4:45am, Captain Vinson secured BCSO weapons and advised Deputy Gardner his law enforcement powers were suspended on behalf of the BCSO until the investigation was complete.
– At approximately 1pm today Captain Vinson concluded his investigation with assistance from Richmond County Investigators and presented the information to the Command Staff.
– At 2pm today, Chief Deputy Blanchard and Captain Vinson met with Deputy Gardner and reviewed his statements from the previous evening which did not change. Based on these findings, Internal Affairs along with Chief Deputy Blanchard recommended termination of Deputy Gardner to Sheriff Alfonzo Williams which was upheld.
While we do attempt to work with Deputies who make errors in judgement we hold our Deputies to the highest of standards; especially regarding the use of deadly force. Based on all evidence presented, Deputy Gardner’s actions were not consistent with department policy or use of force standards. Deputy Gardner who was hired on October 21, 2019 was still on probationary status. Deputy Gardner was terminated today at 2:30pm from the Burke County Sheriff’s Office.
Both Sheriff Williams and Chief Blanchard would like to personally thank Sheriff Roundtree and all of the men and women of the RCSO who responded to or assisted in this investigation.