AYNOR, SC (WMBF) – The mayor of Aynor was stopped by Horry County Police last month while riding a lawnmower down the road, apparently with an open can of beer. An Horry County Police official confirmed the mayor was not cited or charged, and said that their officers' response "will be a training opportunity" for their agency.
Horry County Police released dash camera video of officers stopping John Gardner as he drove the riding lawnmower down a two-lane road on Friday, August 25 at about 8:40 p.m.
At first, officers can be heard laughing at the sight of the lawnmower, but when Gardner didn't stop the lawnmower for the police's flashing blue lights, they continued the "slow-speed chase," and pulled alongside him to get his attention.
Gardner, who is also the Chief Financial Officer for Horry County Schools, then stopped the lawnmower at an intersection and got off. While the male officer asked where Gardner was headed and why he didn't stop for the police car behind him, the female officer noticed an open beer can in the mower's cup holder.
The male officer told Gardner that there were no lights on his conveyance, and that no one could see him driving down the road.
Gardner said he was driving the lawnmower to his home up the road. At one point, Gardner asks, "You know who I am?" to which the male officer responds: "I know you."
The male officer then said: "You put me in a spot," and Gardner responded: "I know…I know…I apologize for that."
Gardner explained that he went to fill the lawnmower with gas, and stopped when he saw the blue lights.
The male officer said that he is going to have Aynor come out to the scene, presumably meaning an Aynor Police officer.
Later during the stop, the male officer said: "I mean, because if it was me driving that car, even though I'm a police officer…you know what I'm saying – I'd be on the news…I'd hate to see you on the news."
Gardner responded: "I'd hate to see myself on the news."
A cell phone appeared to ring, but from the video's audio, it's difficult to make out who the call was from.
The female officer then said that they have an Aynor police officer on the way out there. Gardner asked if they can go to town hall, and the officer asked: "Why would I want to go to town hall?"
An unidentified man then arrived and drove the lawn mower away.
Horry County Police spokeswoman Krystal Dotson said that no police report was available because the incident was just a contact/traffic stop, and no report was generated. She confirmed that the case was never turned over to the Aynor Police Department.
When asked why no citation, ticket or charge was presented to Gardner after he was found with an open alcohol container while driving a moving vehicle at night with no lights, Dotson replied: "Our policy states the officer will use their discretion to cite or ticket an individual."
The HCPD investigation into the incident revealed that a public contact form or citation was not issued.
"This will be a training opportunity for our agency," Dotson said.
Aynor Police Chief David Thompson provided this statement: "The situation involving Mayor Gardner was neither initiated or investigated by the Aynor Police Department therefore it would not be appropriate for me to make a comment on another agencies case."
Aynor Town Manager Tony Godsey said that since there are no charges or tickets, they aren't investigating or doing anything.
Teal Britton with Horry County Schools also said that no action will be taken against Gardner because there is no report or charges.
WMBF News has reached out to Gardner for further comment.
Gardner, a former member of Aynor's town council, was elected mayor of Aynor in August of 2016 in a special election against fellow councilmember Paul McCracken, news partner MyHorryNews.com reports.
While much of the dash camera video's audio is unintelligible, below is a transcription of the portions of the video that could be understood:
00:52: *Officers can be heard laughing*
1:15: Officer: He's not stopping!
1:45: Officer: HEY!
2:25: Male officer: How are you?
2:27: Gardner: I'm good.
2:27: Female Officer: *Unintelligible*…Miller Lite can drinking, going down the road
2:30: Male officer: *Unintelligible*..doing tonight?
2:34: Gardner: Down the road.
2:37: Male Officer: *Unintelligible*
2:38: Gardner: No no no, I'm going right down there. *Unintelligible
2:45: Male Officer: *Unintelligible*…there ain't no lights on, no one can see you.
3:05: Gardner: You know who I am?
3:06: Male Officer: I know you.
3:10: Gardner: I'm just…trying to get home
3:11: Male Officer: I understand. How far do you live from here?
3:15: Gardner: Right down….*unintelligible*
3:30: Gardner: I apologize
3:51: Male Officer: You put me in a spot
3:53: Gardner: I know.. I know.. I apologize for that
4:04: Male Officer: Did you see the blue lights on behind you? You just kept driving.
4:10: Gardner: I went to go fill up the gas.. I saw the blue lights and I pulled over
4:12: Male Officer: Well, what's going to happen is I'm going to have Aynor come out here..
4:18: Male Officer: *Unintelligible*
4:24: Male Officer: You can go ahead and put that *unintelligible* down.
4:29: Male Officer: No the other one.. you got anything in it or its done already
4:32: Male Officer: The Miller High Life.. whatever it is you got.
4:38: Gardner: I'm not *Unintelligible*
4:42: Male Officer: I understand.
5:15: Male Officer: Where you stay out off of 319?
5:18: Gardner: No.. I live up.. *Unintelligible* Fifth Avenue.
5:20: Gardner: *Points forward with arm* *Unintelligible*
5:30: Gardner: *Unintelligible*
5:41: Male Officer: But if we handle it.. it's going to have to go through Horry County
5:43: Gardner: I know
5:45: Male Officer: *Unintelligible*
5:50: Gardner: I know.. I know
5:51: Male Officer: I mean because if It was me driving that car even though I'm a police officer.. you know what I'm saying I'd be on the news.
5:58: Male Officer: I'd hate to see you on the news.
6:00: Gardner: I'd hate to see myself on the news.
6:01: Male Officer: That wouldn't be good.
6:10: Male Officer: Stay here for a second, okay?
6:15: Gardner: Arms crossed leaning against lawn mower *Unintelligible*
6:16: Male Officer: I gotcha, just sit tight.
7:20: Male Officer: *Unintelligible*
10:15: Female Officer: Is there anyone I can get *Unintelligible*
11:20: Female Officer: Where you trying to get to now?
11:22: Gardner: Home *Unintelligible*
11:43 – 12:10: *Mr. Grinch ringtone plays*
12:50: Female Officer: Who's that?
12:53: Gardner: *Unintelligible*
13:00: Female Officer: We have one of your officers on the way out here right now
14:18: Female Officer: Stay right there for me, ok?
14:30: Female Officer: What's that? I can't hear you
14:35: Gardner: Can we go to town hall?
14:37: Female Officer: Right now? Why would I want to go to town hall?
15:27: *Unidentified male drives lawn mower away*
16:31: *Video ends*