Gardner arraigned in Nebraska, faces felony

Mike Gardner

Ector County Commissioner Mike Gardner was arraigned in Lancaster County (Nebraska) District Court Friday on a second-degree assault charge in connection with the shooting of his grandson.

According to court staff, Gardner’s next court date is Dec. 18.

Gardner turned himself into authorities Oct. 2, days after he shot his grandson at a wedding Gardner was officiating. He was released after posting a $10,000 bond.

Gardner planned to fire off a gun to start off the ceremony, but when he cocked back the hammer of the gun, it slipped, and a homemade blank fired and struck the 12-year-old in the shoulder.

Originally, Gardner was arrested on suspicion of child abuse and neglect, serious bodily injury, which is punishable by zero to three years in prison, nine to 18 months of post-release supervision, a $10,000 fine or both.

The second-degree assault charge carries a prison sentence of zero to 20 years.

A week after the incident, Gardner read the following statement at a news conference:

“The situation does not affect my role as a county commissioner for Precinct 1. Unless and until such a time I am convicted of a disqualifying charge, I will continue to act in this roll and will seek re-election as well. My wife, Angela, has been the rock of our family through this and we will continue to focus on making sure that the boys have what is needed to heal physically and emotionally.

“I thank you again. I thank all those who have reached out with prayers and support and we’re very thankful for the friends and family that have been here and supported me through this very difficult time. I ask that you continue your prayers of healing from my grandson. If you’re representing the press, (or) any press organization, be sure to sign in and I will send out an email to you today,” Gardner said.

The Washington Post reported Gardner used a borrowed Pietta 1860 snub-nose revolver that was loaded with homemade blanks.

Gardner said he did not use a fully loaded blank because he did not want a loud bang, and that’s why he used a homemade blank. While he had shot blanks before, Gardner admitted that he had not shot a homemade blank before that day.

Gardner said he used someone else’s gun instead of one of his own because “it was more suitable for what I had in mind” for the wedding. The firearm is not considered an “unsafe gun,” he said.

Gardner told the Post he understands the shooting has put his political future in jeopardy. He knows he won’t be in office anymore if he’s convicted and said he won’t push back if it comes to that.

“That’s how it is,” said Gardner, who is up for reelection in 2024. “If you’re convicted, you don’t serve anymore. I’ve never tried to skirt that issue.”

He said the grandson he shot was one of his 20 grandchildren. The boy is a twin and loves baseball, hunting and fishing, Gardner said. He added that the 12-year-old has been discharged from the hospital and is back in Odessa.

Gardner said he spoke with the bride and groom, who said “they were sick about what happened.” But the family has supported one another since the shooting.

“Accidents happen,” Gardner said, before thanking God for his grandson surviving.