Kim Gardner's office opens investigation into traffic stop, but refutes claims of interference

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ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) --  The St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office called a press conference Thursday to address the ongoing dispute about a traffic stop involving Kim Gardner in December.

Redditt Hudson with the CAO presented assembled media with a secondary surveillance video obtained from the post office that also shows the stop in its entirety. 

On December 23, police spotted a car driving without headlights down Market Street. Police initiated a traffic stop. St. Louis police said the driver was Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner.

[WATCH: News 4's original report on Kim Gardner's claim about a 15 minute traffic stop]

Gardner reportedly called her lead investigator and told him she was being detained. That investigator arrived on the scene and spoke to the officer. News 4 obtained an SLMPD internal memo from the officer who pulled Gardner over, detailing the stop and the presence of someone who gets "called every time she gets pulled over or stopped by police. 

[READ THE FULL MEMO HERE]

This is where the dispute begins. 

Gardner recently talked about the traffic stop earlier this month in an interview with CBS News where she also talks about her lawsuit accusing the city, police and police union of a racist conspiracy to take her down.

“I was stopped for no lights but held for more than 15 minutes,” Gardner said in the interview. “I still don’t know the reason why.”

[WATCH: Families awaiting arrests in murder cases express worry over relationship of Kim Gardner's office, police]

Gardner suggested it was about intimidation and even reiterated her point on a local radio station.

Real time surveillance video obtained by News 4 showed the incident, and revealed the stop lasted just over six minutes, less than the 15 minutes Gardner claimed.

[WATCH: Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner talks about reaction to her lawsuit]

Gardner also said the stop happened on Christmas Eve, but the video shows it happened on December 23. 

When News 4 aired our story showing the stop happened on the 23rd of December and not on Christmas Eve as Gardner initially stated, and that the stop was less than half of the 15 minutes she claimed, the Circuit Attorney's Office doubled down on the original claims. 

"Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner disputes the facts shared by the police union in regards to being pulled over on December 24.

According to the police it was a 15 minute stop. In addition, the officer’s statement is different than the one shared by Jeff Roorda.

The events of the night in question are worthy of serious attention. We will note that Mr. Roorda’s dismissive attitude and willingness to publicly comment on such a matter without taking the time to gather credible information regarding the events is unfortunate. This serves as yet another example of the biased rhetoric that made legal action necessary against the SLPOA police union."

We asked the police department about this latest statement from Gardner, they said:

"We never stated she was detained for 15 minutes. The video provided clearly indicates the length of time spent by the officer. I can tell you that an investigator from the Circuit Attorney's Office did involve himself into the traffic investigation for which he could have been arrested for interfering but was not arrested."

However Thursday, Hudson said Gardner simply got her dates mixed up and incorrectly said December 24. 

As for the length of the stop, Hudson said when Gardner initially contacted the department about the traffic stop, she said she believed it was 30 minutes long. According to the CAO, police responded the stop "was more like 15 minutes" and that's where the number she quoted came from. 

When asked where the information came from, Hudson said Gardner's office has requested a formal investigation and cannot comment on who in the department told them the 15 minutes comment. However, there was no exact information on what the investigation is looking into. 

The other point of dispute came from Gardner's investigator showing up. 

Jeff Roorda, with the St. Louis Police Officers Association, said the officer didn’t realize Gardner was the driver he pulled over.

“One of her investigators interfered with the traffic stop, tried to intimidate the officer,” Roorda said. “I would have arrested him. You can’t just show up and interfere with traffic stop.”

However the video Hudson showed Thursday purports to show Gardner's investigator interacting amicably with the officer, shaking hands twice. 

The video was not clear, but Hudson said they are getting it enhanced to better show the interaction, and confidently said there was no interference or intimidation to be seen. 

In the memo from the officer to his superior, he described the encounter with the investigator. He wrote someone showed up with an SLMPD ID badge and came to window. At the time, the officer believed the man was possibly another cop he didn't know. News 4 cannot verify if the badge was actually SLMPD or just appeared to be.

 "He then asked if I knew who the driver in the Escape was. Again, believing he was a police officer with our department, I stated, 'I just noticed that on her license,'" the officer wrote in his memo. "He then asked, 'Why did you stop her?' I replied, 'She was driving down Market Street without her headlights on.'"

In the memo the officer said Gardner's investigator said the car had been cleaned earlier in the day and someone must have turned off the automatic lights. Then he reportedly told the officer, "I get called whenever she gets pulled over or stopped by the police."

When asked if he was going to write Gardner a ticket, the officer replied, "No" and the investigator went back to his car. 

Hudson said it is not uncommon for Gardner to contact her investigator when confronted by police, as escalating tensions between her office and the department means she feels more comfortable when she is not alone during her interactions with officers.

Gardner was reportedly given a warning, but the Circuit Attorney's Office bristled at Roorda's statements and Hudson strongly rebuked him. 

He noted Roorda is not an officer and is not employed by the city, "but is afforded a platform to present misinformation."

"That, to me, is the focus of why we are here today. It might not have escalated to this point but for the egregious misrepresentations and lies of Jeff Roorda," Hudson continued. "He lost his job as a law enforcement officer for falsifying a police report. This is a pattern for him."

[WATCH: Gardner's office says traffic stop blown out of proportion due to comments from Jeff Roorda]

The Circuit Attorney's Office received the video of the stop on December 26, but Hudson said Gardner had not seen it until Thursday, and that's why she went with the 15 minute timetable on the radio. 

The office said they have no issues with the officer who pulled Gardner over and conducted the traffic stop, but requested an investigation so all accurate information is presented to the public.

Roorda attended the press conference and talked to reporters afterward about what was said. 

"It's kind of surprising the Circuit Attorney actually kind of admitted to the press that she lied. She all along gave the wrong date and the wrong amount of time," Roorda said. "Now she's trying to alibi for that by back filling the story and attacking me through her high paid, tax dollar paid spokesperson."

Roorda also argued that he had nothing up his sleeve concerning his comments about the role of the CAO's investigator in the traffic stop. 

"He's got no business approaching a police car and a police officer while he's in the middle of a police stop. The reason it's cordial is because he's wearing a lanyard around his neck that says 'St. Louis Police Department.' The officer thinks he's talking to another police officer. Doesn't realize until after the guy finally identifies himself that he's talking to an investigator that's inserting himself into a traffic stop," Roorda said. 

"I haven't changed my position. I would have locked the guy up, that's what I said before and that's what I'm saying still," Roorda added.

Copyright 2020 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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