Gardner has March 12 preliminary court date

Mike Gardner

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

According to court staff, Gardner’s next court date is at 10:30 a.m. March 12.

Gardner is up for re-election with early voting starting in February and election day on March 6. Gardner faces David Shaw, Larry Glenn Robinson and Linda Young Anglley.

Gardner turned himself in to authorities Oct. 2, 2023, days after he shot his grandson during 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.

On Tuesday, Gardner said the March hearing will be with attorneys from both sides and a judge without a jury. He said his hope is they reach an agreement that takes felony charges off the table. A felony would make him ineligible for office.

He said he absolutely did not do it on purpose and was devastated by injuring his grandson, who Gardner says tells him daily he has forgiven him and “knows he didn’t mean to do that.”

The shooting made national news with The Washington Post reporting 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. “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.

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