The family of the white Omaha bar owner who killed himself after being charged in the fatal shooting of a Black man during 2020 protests over racial injustice is suing local prosecutors, saying their comments led to his suicide.
Jake Gardner had been charged with manslaughter and other felonies in the May 30, 2020, shooting death of 22-year-old James Scurlock when he killed himself in September the day before he was expected to turn himself in.
Gardner’s parents are suing the Douglas County Attorney’s Office, special prosecutor Frederick Franklin and County Attorney Don Kleine for violating Gardner’s constitutional rights.
Specifically, the suit points to Franklin’s description to the grand jury and to the press after the indictment was handed down of Gardner as a racist who set an ambush in his bar to kill any protester who entered.
The suit calls the comments reckless, false, and misleading – driving the combat veteran suffering from PTSD and a traumatic brain injury into depression over Scurlock’s death, getting a fair trial, and fear for his family. The result was the suicide.
According to the lawsuit, Gardner received more than 1,600 death threats after the press conference with his family, fearing for their own safety, forced to move out of Nebraska.
The suit also holds Kleine accountable for not keeping Franklin from making his statements to the press. Klein originally declined to file charges, ruling Gardner’s shooting of Scurlock as an act of self-defense.