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Former Lawrence police officer arrested on suspicion of raping 20-year-old while he was on duty, 24 other counts

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Article last updated at 7:06 p.m. Friday; photo updated at 1:49 p.m. Friday:

Former Lawrence police officer Jonathan Gardner has been arrested on suspicion of more than two dozen criminal counts, including an alleged on-duty rape and official misconduct.

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Gardner, 41, of Tonganoxie, is accused of one count of rape, 12 counts of unlawful acts concerning computers, and 12 counts of official misconduct, according to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Prosecutors are already seeking an extended sentence, should Gardner be found guilty, saying that his conduct “manifested excessive brutality” toward the alleged victim, but he was granted release from jail Friday on a signature bond, court records show. 

The allegation of rape is in connection with a complaint that a community member made to LPD’s Office of Professional Accountability on Nov. 1, 2021, according to a news release from LPD. A female community member reported that Gardner had sexually assaulted her on Jan. 1, 2017, according to the KBI.

“Investigators assigned to the Office of Professional Accountability interviewed the community member later that day. This complaint was the first time the department had any knowledge of the alleged incident,” LPD’s release stated.

“Based on information obtained in the interview, investigators recognized the allegation involved potential criminal conduct. On the afternoon of Monday, November 1, 2021, the department contacted the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and asked it to conduct the criminal investigation. The department placed Gardner on administrative leave prior to his next patrol shift.”

The charging document that Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez filed against Gardner on Feb. 22, unsealed Friday, alleges that he had sex with a 20-year-old who was unable to consent because of intoxication, or in the alternative, overcome by force or fear. The charge is a level-1, or very severe, felony. The other 24 counts are a mixture of low-level felonies and misdemeanors.

In a motion filed in the case Wednesday, Valdez and Deputy DA Joshua Seiden seek an “upward departure” from the sentence prescribed by state law, should Gardner be found guilty. The motion says that “the requisite statutory factors the State will seek to establish will be that the defendant’s conduct during the commission of the charged offenses manifested excessive brutality to the victim in a manner not normally present in those offenses.”

KBI’s news release stated that “The charges of official misconduct and unlawful acts with computers claim Gardner committed illegal and unauthorized searches of the Kansas Criminal Justice Information System (KCJIS), as well as internal police department public safety systems between 2017 and 2020.”

Gardner is the second former Lawrence police officer booked into jail in connection with on-duty allegations this week. David Shane Williams has been charged with one felony and one misdemeanor for allegations that he misused the KCJIS system.

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Gardner’s employment with the Lawrence Police Department spanned 8 1/2 years, from June 4, 2013 through Nov. 29, 2021. That was the only law enforcement employment history listed in records provided by the Kansas Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (CPOST) on Feb. 24.

“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,” Lawrence police chief Rich Lockhart said in LPD’s release.

“The conduct Gardner is accused of is not tolerated by the department. The department acted swiftly when notified of the allegation and is grateful to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation for its investigation into this matter. Most importantly, I would like to extend my appreciation to the community member who possessed the courage and bravery to come forward and report this allegation to our agency,” Lockhart continued.

The KBI said the Douglas County district attorney is expected to prosecute the case, and the investigation is ongoing.

Douglas County District Court Judge Sally Pokorny signed a warrant for Gardner’s arrest on Tuesday, documents in the case file show.

Gardner was being held on $50,000 bond at the Leavenworth County jail, according to the KBI; jail and court records show he bonded out just before 2:15 p.m. Friday on his own recognizance, meaning he did not have to pay to be released. He has a court date set for 3 p.m. March 15.

As of Friday, CPOST records did not indicate that Gardner’s officer certification had been revoked or suspended.

No attorney had entered an appearance in Gardner’s case as of Friday evening. Gardner did not immediately return a voicemail left at the phone number in court records.

All arrestees and defendants in criminal cases should be presumed not guilty unless and until they are convicted.

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Resources for survivors

If you have experienced sexual violence or trauma, please seek the help that’s right for you. There are many options available, and you don’t have to file a police report if you don’t want to.

Get 24/7 help in Lawrence: The Sexual Trauma & Abuse Care Center
  • Call 785-843-8985 to reach an advocate, 24/7. (Consider saving that number in your phone in case you or someone you know ever needs it.)
  • After an assault: What are my options? Check this page for detailed information about
    • talking to an advocate,
    • going to the hospital,
    • making a police report,
    • and/or talking to a counselor or therapist.
  • On campus? Check this page for specific resources for the University of Kansas, Haskell Indian Nations University, Baker University, Ottawa University and more.
Resources on KU’s campus:
  • Contact the CARE (Campus Assistance, Resource, and Education) Coordinator: Make an appointment by email, care@ku.edu, or by calling 785-864-9255.
  • Direct message KU CARE Sisters on Instagram. You don’t need to be affiliated with Greek Life to reach out and/or receive assistance.
  • Find more KU campus resources at this link.
Domestic violence situations: The Willow Domestic Violence Center
  • Reach the Willow for help 24/7 at 785-843-3333.
  • Find more resources on the Willow’s website at this link.
  • National hotline: Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), text “START” to 88788, and/or visit thehotline.org to chat and learn more, 24/7.

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

Click here for more Crime & Courts coverage from The Lawrence Times
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