White Omaha Bar Owner Charged in Shooting Death of Black Protester Dies by Suicide, According to Attorneys


A white bar owner in Omaha, Neb., who was charged last week in connection with the shooting death of a Black protester in May, died Sunday by suicide, according to his attorneys.

The Washington Post reports defense attorney Stu Dornan said in a news conference that his client, 38-year-old Jake Gardner, died “at his own hand” in Oregon on the same day he was scheduled to turn himself into authorities in Omaha.

On Wednesday, The Root reported that Gardner was indicted for fatally shooting 22-year-old James Scurlock during the wave of protests that took place in the city following the death of George Floyd. Gardner was facing four felony charges, including manslaughter. The indictment came months after investigators originally determined that Gardner killed Scurlock in self-defense and Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine decided that he wouldn’t be charged. A grand jury disagreed with the original investigators, citing evidence that Special Prosecutor Frederick Franklin said Kleine had not seen—specifically, texts and Facebook messages Gardner sent out that reportedly indicate the shooting may have been planned and intentional.

“Jake Gardner was threatening the use of deadly force in the absence of being threatened with a concomitant deadly force by James Scurlock or anyone who was associated with him,” Franklin said.

“The grand jury indictment was a shock to him,” Dornan said of his client Sunday. “He was really shook up.”

From the Post:

Around 12:20 p.m. Sunday, police in Hillsboro, Ore., responded to a call of a body found outside a medical clinic less than 20 miles west of downtown Portland, authorities said in a news release. Investigators eventually identified Gardner, saying that his death is under investigation, but “officers are not seeking any suspects and there is no danger to the community.” Gardner did not leave a note, his attorneys said.

During the news conference Sunday, Gardner’s attorneys maintained that Scurlock’s death was a case of self-defense claiming that “lies on social media” are responsible for Gardner being indicted.

Dorian said that, in the end, both men’s deaths are tragic.

“Unfortunately, there are two men who have died in a terrible tragedy,” he 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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