Editor’s note: Details included in this story could be considered graphic to some. Discretion is advised.
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Newly released court documents shed more light on charges against a former Lawrence police officer accused of rape while on duty.
Jonathan Gardner, 41, was charged in March with one count of rape, 12 counts of unlawful acts concerning computers and 12 counts of official misconduct.
After Lawrence Police Department finished its investigation, the agency fired the officer.
The Lawrence Police Department’s investigation began in November 2021 after a woman reported touched her sexually while giving her a ride home on New Years Day 2017. The agency later asked for assistance from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
The woman said she had gotten separated from a friend while they were at a Lawrence bar. She walked to a nearby hotel where Lawrence police were already on another assignment. Court records say the woman contacted Gardner, asking for a ride home.
The woman said she wasn’t sure if she “came onto” Gardner, but told investigators he allegedly placed his hand on her thigh and then touched her sexually while he drove, charging documents say.
In a November 2021 interview with the KBI, Gardner said he recalled interacting with the woman because it was “uncommon” and he “thought she was hitting on” him. He denied that he initiated touching the woman, alleging that she grabbed his hand and place it on her lap, court records say.
Gardner told the KBI he pulled his hand back and continued to ask her questions about where she needed to go.
He drove the woman to her grandmother’s home, but she realized she lost the key when she lost her cell phone and purse earlier that night.
The woman said she didn’t know why, but another Lawrence officer arrived and took her home, where she lived with her mother. Gardner said he was supposed to be off shift by then, so he requested another officer.
Gardner also alleges the woman grabbed his hand on the porch, but he pulled it away, court documents say. He denied ever touching the woman aside from when his hand was briefly on her lap.
Gardner said the other officer even told him the woman was “handsy” later. But that officer told the KBI he didn’t remember saying that, adding that women are not “handsy” with him, and he would remember if one was.
When she was dropped off, the woman told her mother that an officer had sexually assaulted her but didn’t want to discuss it, court documents say.
In April 2021, the woman accompanied an acquaintance to the Lawrence Police Department on an unrelated issue. Gardner was assigned to take the report.
Court records say, toward the end of the meeting, Gardner turned to the woman and said he remembered her from New Years, according to the woman.
She told investigators she didn’t know the officer’s name before that day in 2021, which is part of the reason she didn’t make a police report. But she said Gardner’s comment that day made it “click,” she froze briefly and rushed out.
Multiple friends told investigators the woman had shared information about the alleged sexual assault with them afterward. One friend said they encouraged the woman to report the assault, but the woman was reluctant because of the officer’s position of power and potential consequences since she was on probation, had been drinking and was under the legal age.
Continuing their investigation, Lawrence police Gardner was parked at the grandmother’s home for 12 minutes. The GPS in Gardner’s patrol car stopped working at 3:51 a.m. Gardner doesn’t report back to dispatch until 4:16 a.m., and the other officer is added to the call minutes later.
Gardner denied deactivating the GPS on his car.
Gardner told a KBI investigator he was only parked at the grandmother’s house for a few minutes, court documents say, but he spent a long time trying to figure out where exactly she needed to go since she was intoxicated.
There also wasn’t any dash camera footage from Gardner’s contact with the woman. Lawrence police determined the recording was manually stopped at 3:39 a.m. Gardner said he did not recall doing so and didn’t know why records would show it was manually stopped.
There is a digital footprint of dash camera records, but the actual footage was deleted after 90 days because it was deemed “citizen contact.”
Through their investigation, Lawrence police determined Gardner had allegedly searched for the woman on the department’s internal database, viewing her photo 12 times in 2017, court records say.
The KBI also determined Gardner allegedly searched the woman’s personal information through the Kansas Criminal Justice Information System five times from January 2017 to November 2021.
Gardner told investigators searches he performed of the woman’s information were for a “law enforcement purpose,” court records say. He said he had considered, on multiple occasions, making a report to the department about the woman grabbing his hand but never did.
Lawrence Police Chief Rich Lockhart previously released the following statement:
“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. 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.”