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The Bar Owner Indicted For Killing A Black Man During A Protest Has Died By Suicide

Jake Gardner's attorney said he had been "really shook up" after being indicted for manslaughter.

Posted on September 21, 2020, at 10:54 a.m. ET

Nati Harnik / AP

An Omaha, Nebraska, bar owner has died by suicide after being charged for fatally shooting a Black man at a protest at the end of May.

Jake Gardner, 38, was found dead outside an Oregon medical clinic on Sunday, the Hillsboro Police Department announced. While the department did not list a cause of death, Gardner's attorney, Stu Dornan, said in a press conference on Sunday that his client had killed himself.

Last week, Gardner had been indicted for the shooting of 22-year-old James Scurlock at a protest against police brutality on May 30.

Gardner was not initially charged for the incident, with Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine saying surveillance footage indicated he acted in self-defense. But on Wednesday, a grand jury indicted Gardner, charging him with manslaughter, attempted first-degree assault, use of a firearm, and terror threats.

Omaha Police Dept. has identified the Downtown Omaha shooting victim as James Scurlock, 22. They didn’t identify the shooter and are reviewing evidence and videos from the scene. @3NewsNowOmaha

The newfound evidence to charge Gardner came from his text messages and Facebook posts, special prosecutor Frederick Franklin said.

"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," said Franklin.

"Evidence to reasonably be construed as an intent to use a firearm for purposes of killing someone," he continued. "You will want to know what it is, and I can't tell you about it. But what I can tell you is that that evidence comes primarily from Jake Gardner himself."

Kleine initially declined to press charges against Gardner, saying in a June press conference that video showed he had acted in self-defense. According to Kleine, Gardner had been standing guard outside his bar during a protest, when he wound up in an altercation with two protesters. He began shooting, which he later defended as "warning shots."

At this point, Scurlock entered the fray, jumping on Gardner's back in an effort to stop him from shooting more, Kleine said. Gardner then fatally shot him.

Gardner had a history of discrimination and racist comments, several former employees and two family members told Yahoo News.

In a press conference following his son's death, Scurlock's father, also named James Scurlock, said the family wanted "closure and peace."

“Last night I lost a son, my wife lost a son, my kids lost a brother,” Scurlock said. “His daughter lost a father. All because he decided to protest against racism. There’s a lot of speculation and rumors about how this happened. I don’t really care, to be honest. My family wants closure and peace. What we want is for this to go to court and get a full prosecution. We want this to go with justice and go peacefully.”

Dornan announced his client's death Sunday night, saying Gardner had been "really shook up" by the indictment. He had fled to California after the shooting on his attorney's recommendation and was supposed to return to Nebraska on Sunday to face his charges.

“The grand jury indictment was a shock to him, it was a shock to us, and it was a shock to many people,” Dornan said.

Dornan said Gardner was a veteran who served in Iraq, and who had experienced PTSD and two traumatic brain injuries as a result. "He told us he thought he was in the war zone that night outside of his bar with the violence, the tear gas, and the mass confusion," he said.

"Unfortunately, there are two men who have died in a terrible tragedy," Dornan said. "It's a terrible tragedy for the Omaha community, it's a terrible tragedy for James Scurlock and his family... It's a terrible tragedy for the Gardner family."


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