Burke County deputy fired after opening fire on fleeing suspect while drunk, officials say

(Source: Burke County)
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Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020

RICHMOND COUNTY, SC (WRDW/WAGT) -- A Burke County sheriff's deputy is without a job Thursday after an investigation found he fired on a fleeing burglary suspect while he was drunk, the Burke County Sheriff's Office said.

According to the sheriff's office, Richmond County deputies were called to the scene of a possible burglary and an off-duty Burke County deputy opening fire at a suspect.

The deputy, known as Deputy Gardner, was called to a residence by his neighbor to report a possible burglary.

Gardner, officials say, went to his neighbor's house around 2:20 a.m. Thursday and drew his personal weapon while seeking the home. Gardner, investigators said, spotted a male suspect leaving his yard and jumping the back fence.

Investigators say Gardner then opened fire on the unarmed suspect several times.

It was at that point, officials said, Gardner called 911 and waited for Richmond County deputies to arrive. When deputies arrived, they secured the area and searched for the suspect without luck.

Richmond County investigators questioned Gardner about the incident, according to the sheriff's office, which he described opening fire at a suspect. Deputies said they also smelled alcohol on Gardner and they performed a breathalyzer test on him.

Gardner, investigators said, failed the test. He was immediately suspended and fired several hours later.

"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," Burke County spokesman Lewis Blanchard said in a statement. "Based on all evidence presented, Deputy Gardner’s actions were not consistent with department policy or use of force standards."

Gardner had only been with the force since Oct. 21, 2019 and was still on probationary status.

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