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No Charges for Omaha Bar Owner Who Shot a Black Protester

On Monday, Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine announced that after viewing videos of the incident with police officials and homicide detectives, he has decided not to charge Jake Gardner in Saturday night’s shooting death of James Scurlock.

Kleine said even though he believes the death was “senseless,” he must follow the law.

“It can’t be based on emotions. It can’t be based on anger. It can’t be based on any of those things.”

Scurlock’s family believes the prosecutor rushed to judgment by declaring the shooting an act of self-defense.

The family’s attorney, Justin Wayne, said the 22-year-old should not have been shot and the case should go to a grand jury. Wayne also noted that Gardner had a concealed carry permit that had expired.

There shooting occurred during protests following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

Cell phone and surveillance videos show the encounter that night. According to prosecutors, Gardner’s father asked protesters outside of Gatsby bar to leave and can be seen on camera pushing one. An identified man can then be seen pushing him back. That is when the son, Jack Gardner, intervened. Wayne says Scurlock was not part of that group of protesters.

Jake Gardner had a handgun in is waistband and lifted his shirt to show it during the confrontation with protesters.

After seeing the gun, two people jumped on Gardner’s back and a tussle began. Gardner fired to warning shots into the air, the country attorney said. According to authorities, that was when Scurlock jumped on Gardner. Gardner told police he was put in a chokehold and he begged for Scurlock to get off of him.

“He thought he was in danger of losing his life or serious bodily injury,” said Kleine. That’s when Scurlock was shot in the clavicle and killed.

According to Kleine he came to the decision not to press charges on Gardner because they could not find that the shooting was not in self-defense.

“We have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it’s not self-defense,” Kleine explained. “The officers that were involved in the investigation said we don’t think there’s any way we can move forward at this point,” he added.

Kleine said that “there isn’t any audio that we have that shows any racial slurs” and, after reviewing the evidence, he doesn’t feel that the owner was “somebody who walked out and was trying to hunt down somebody.”

The family attorney said, “I surely believe none of this would happened if the bar owner’s father didn’t put hands on a young individual ahead of time. That young individual was not a part of the group that James was a part of.”

He said Scurlock was trying to protect a family member and friend and was confronted by the younger Gardner. The attorney said the decision to clear Gardner came too quickly, compared to the bringing of charges in the Floyd case. He said the family is considering starting a petition in Douglas County to have the matter brought before a grand jury.

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1 comment

Anne Mills June 13, 2020 at 1:19 am

I don’t understand. It sounds like the “victim” had jumbed on the back of another man and put him in a chokehold. Sounds like self-defense. I cannot get the video to play, so am unsure of what happened.


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