Nebraska bar owner charged 3 months after killing Black protester

When Jake Gardner shot James Scurlock, a 22-year-old man protesting in Omaha, it was considered self-defense - until a special prosecutor's probe.

The death of James Scurlock, a 22-year-old Omaha protester, was considered self-defense until a special prosecutor’s probe found more.
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A grand jury has voted to charge a Nebraska bar owner with manslaughter after the slaying of a young Black man outside of his establishment.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine had initially found that Jake Gardner acted in self-defense. However, additional evidence uncovered by Special Prosecutor Frederick Franklin convinced a grand jury otherwise.

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Franklin announced Tuesday that their additional investigation involved interviews with more than 60 people and many videos.

The grand jury returned an indictment today against Jake Gardner,” Franklin said. “They were able to get evidence into Mr. Gardner’s state of mind, as a part of what was presented to them through this investigation.”

“There was evidence that was gathered and presented to the grand jury about activity that Jake Gardner was engaged in prior to even coming in contact with James Scurlock,” he continued. “Evidence to reasonably be construed as an intent to use a firearm for purposes of killing someone.”

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Scurlock was killed on May 30 as protests in Omaha inspired from the videotaped killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers spiraled into vandalism. He was walking down the street with several people when they approached The Gatsby bar, where Gardner, 38, and his father were standing.

Gardner’s father approached the group and shoved one of them, who pushed him back.

The Gatsby owner then confronted the group and flashed his weapon, at which point, two of the youths pushed him, knocking him down. He fired two “warning” shots.

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According to a report from The Daily Beast, Scurlock then jumped on top of Gardner. The man told police that he “fired over his back,” fearing for his life after being put in what he called a chokehold. Gardner’s bullet hit the 22-year-old in the clavicle, killing him.

In his announcement from the Omaha Douglas Civic Center, Franklin declined to reveal what the grand jury heard but said “what I can tell you is that that evidence comes primarily from Jake Gardner himself.”

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Convened jurors found cause to charge Gardner with manslaughter, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony attempted first-degree assault and terroristic threats.

Kleine’s initial decision to not file charges against Gardner had enraged the Omaha community, who immediately protested his stance by the hundreds.

In response to Franklin’s announcement, LaVonya Goodwin, an Omaha community leader, said, “Jake Gardner’s indictments are a step in the right direction towards justice for James Scurlock and his family.”

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