Recorded on police dash cam video and pulled over for swerving his lawnmower all over the road, Aynor Mayor John Gardner eventually stopped his vehicle before officers discovered an open container of beer in his cup holder. Instead of conducting a field sobriety test, the officers subsequently released the mayor without charges after recognizing him.
Around 8:30 p.m. on August 25, Horry County police officers began recording dash cam footage of a man driving a lawnmower down the road while swerving into the opposing lane of traffic. After flashing their lights to initiate a routine traffic stop, the officers could be heard laughing while slowly pursing the lawnmower.
Less than two minutes later, the patrol car pulled up alongside the lawnmower and ordered the driver to stop. Finally complying with their commands, the driver parked his lawnmower but left the engine running.
As Mayor Gardner exited his vehicle, he calmly approached the officers but could not hear them over the sound of his lawnmower’s engine. Shouting directly into his ear, a female officer told him to shut off his engine.
Appearing to have difficulty maintaining his balance, Gardner mistakenly reached his hand toward the left side of the steering wheel before correcting himself and reaching for the ignition key on the other side of the steering wheel. After Gardner turned off the engine, the officers informed the mayor that he had been driving at night without any lights on and caught with an open can of beer in his cup holder.
Providing evasive answers, Gardner failed to adequately explain why he did not immediately pull his vehicle over when the officers hit their lights. Instead of handing over any identification, Gardner asked the male officer, “You know who I am?”
“I know you,” the officer informed the mayor of Aynor.
Immediately after telling Gardner that he would call the Aynor Police Department, the male officer ordered the mayor to empty his open container of beer onto the road, disposing evidence before the other police department would arrive. Gardner initially grabbed another can of beer when the officer corrected him by pointing to the open container on the other side of his vehicle.
“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,” the male officer told the mayor after Gardner dumped out the beer. “I’d hate to see you on the news.”
“I’d hate to see myself on the news,” Gardner admitted.
“That wouldn’t be good,” the officer concluded.
A few minutes later, an unidentified male wearing a dark shirt and light shorts casually stepped into the lawnmower and drove away. Horry County Police spokeswoman Krystal Dotson later confirmed that the case had not been turned over to the Aynor Police Department and that Gardner was never criminally charged or cited despite committing numerous violations on police dash cam video.
Formerly serving as a member of Aynor’s town council, Gardner was elected mayor last year and also serves as the Chief Financial Officer for Horry County Schools in South Carolina.