Grand Jury Doesn't Buy White Bar Owner's Claim

Jake Gardner is charged with manslaughter in May 30 shooting death of James Scurlock
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 16, 2020 9:55 AM CDT
White Bar Owner Charged in May Shooting of Black Man
A memorial for James Scurlock is seen Tuesday in Omaha, Neb.   (Chris Machian/Omaha World-Herald via AP)

A white Nebraska bar owner says he was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed a young Black protester in the spring on the streets of Omaha, claiming the protester had put him in a chokehold. A grand jury, however, felt otherwise. Ex-Marine Jake Gardner, 38, was charged on Tuesday with manslaughter and three other felonies in the shooting death of 22-year-old James Scurlock on May 30, per the Omaha World-Herald. On the night in question, which the Washington Post notes came just five days after the killing of George Floyd, Gardner and his father reportedly confronted Scurlock outside The Gatsby bar during downtown demonstrations. Surveillance video shows Scurlock and Gardner exchanging words after Scurlock's friend shoved Gardner's father to the ground. Per cellphone video, Gardner at one point revealed a gun in his waistband. A female protester then tackled him.

Gardner then allegedly fired two "warning shots," and the female protester and friend ran off. Scurlock was then said to have jumped on Gardner's back, prompting Gardner to fire over his shoulder, killing Scurlock. The Douglas County attorney initially opted not to prosecute Gardner, but special prosecutor Fred Franklin says evidence soon emerged—including Gardner's own texts and social media posts—that "can reasonably be construed as an attempt to use a firearm for purposes of killing someone." The World-Herald reports, for example, that he'd posted on Facebook earlier that weekend that he planned to "pull military-style firewatch" at his bar. He was also charged Tuesday with attempted first-degree assault, making terroristic threats, and weapon use. Gardner, who will have a warrant put out for his arrest if he doesn't turn himself in, could see up to 95 years behind bars if he's convicted. (More fatal shooting stories.)

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