Categories: Community

Co-Host Of WFPL’s Strange Fruit Arrested Monday

A local Black Lives Matter activist and co-host of WFPL’s Strange Fruit radio show and podcast was arrested Monday evening and charged with receiving stolen property.

Jaison Gardner, 36, was being held at Louisville Metro Corrections. His arraignment is set for Tuesday morning.

According to an arrest report, Gardner was allegedly driving a 2016 Mazda that had been reported as stolen. A Louisville Metro Police officer observed Gardner and the Mazda in downtown Louisville shortly after noon Monday, the report says. Gardner parked at a meter downtown “and temporarily left into the downtown business district,” per the report.

Officers waited until Gardner returned, then made the arrest and retrieved the vehicle’s keys, according to the report.

Dwight Mitchell, a spokesman for LMPD, said the detective was on lunch break when he observed Gardner “cut erratically in front of him in traffic.”

“The detective recognized the driver, Jason Gardner [sic], as a person who he knew was wanted on a felony warrant from Marion County, Indiana,” Mitchell said in an email. “While awaiting backup and verifying the warrant, the detective briefly surveilled the suspect and vehicle and also learned the vehicle had been reported and confirmed to have been stolen.”

Gardner was arrested without incident, he said.

Mitchell said he is unaware how the officer knew about Gardner’s outstanding warrant from Indiana.

“I’m not sure how he came upon that information,” he said.

Indiana court records show the outstanding warrant stems from charges in 2003 for forgery, theft and receiving stolen property.

Annie O’Connell, a defense attorney representing Gardner, declined to comment.

Gardner has been a co-host of Strange Fruit for more than four years. He hosts alongside Kaila Story. The commentary show discusses politics, pop culture and black gay life.

“Jaison is a part of our team here at WFPL,” said Stephen George, executive editor of Louisville Public Media. “We’re seeking more information and will withhold further comment at this time.”

George said the show had previously been scheduled to air repeat episodes for the next two weeks.

Gardner is also a Fairness Campaign board member and actively pushes for social equality in a variety of settings, from social media to protests.

His arrest initially drew outrage from supporters on social media. Some suggested Gardner was arrested for his public protest of local police. But in a Facebook post, Tara Pruitt with the local chapter of Black Lives Matter stressed the need to resist the urge to “rush to judgment about things.”

Chanelle Helm, also with the local Black Lives Matter chapter, said Gardner’s arrest “may not be political in nature.”

“Black Lives Matter Louisville remains vigilant and will be present with Jaison through this process,” she said in an email.

When asked if Louisville Metro Police are running surveillance on local activists, Mitchell, the police spokesman, said “not that I am aware of.”

Jacob Ryan

Jacob Ryan joined the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting in December 2017. For three years prior, he worked as a WFPL News reporter and covered issues ranging from City Hall to transportation, public safety to housing. He is a recipient of a Sidney Hillman award, a national Investigative Reporters and Editors award and numerous regional and local awards. Ryan is originally from Eddyville, Kentucky. He’s a graduate of Western Kentucky University.

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