White Nebraska bar owner indicted for fatal shooting of Black man during protest

A white Nebraska bar owner was indicted on Tuesday in the fatal shooting of a Black man during a protest in May.

A grand jury in Douglas County indicted Jake Gardner, 38, on four counts — manslaughter, use of a firearm in the commission for a felony, attempted first-degree assault and making terrorist threats after the shooting death of James Scurlock, 22. 

Officials said Gardner confronted a group of men outside his bar in Omaha on May 30 and was knocked to the ground. Gardner fired two warning shots and as the bar owner tried to get back on his feet, he tussled with Scurlock, they added. Gardner then fatally shot Scurlock, according to The New York Times.

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Fredrick D. Franklin, an assistant U.S. attorney in Omaha, was appointed as special prosecutor in the case after the Douglas County Attorney Donald Kleine announced he wouldn’t press charges against Gardner. Kleine had concluded the bar owner acted in self-defense but after criticism said he was open to an outside review.

Franklin said during a press conference on Tuesday that he had expected to reach the same determinations as Kleine before receiving additional evidence. The Omaha Police Department interviewed about 60 people, he said, adding his investigators obtained evidence from Gardner’s phone, his Facebook Messenger account and video from inside his bar.

Franklin said that by the time of the grand jury’s decision, “it’s almost a slam dunk that they had much more information available to them than what was had at the time the initial decision was made,” adding that members of the panel were able to “get evidence relative to Mr. Gardner’s state of mind.”

Franklin also defended Kleine and his team during, saying they should not be blamed for not indicting Gardner earlier. 

Lawyer Justin Wayne said during a Tuesday press conference that the Scurlock family had “mixed emotions” on the indictment.

“So while this family is thankful, this family is also still frustrated that it took this process to occur,” Wayne said.

Scurlock’s death occurred five days after George Floyd, another Black man, was killed in Minneapolis police custody, sparking Black Lives Matter protests across the country and around the world. The shooting of Scurlock led to large protests in Omaha, where 75 to 100 people were arrested the night he was killed, according to KMTV.