OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – An Omaha bar owner won’t be charged with the fatal shooting of a 22-year-old man in downtown Omaha during weekend protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said Monday he concluded Jake Gardner acted in self-defense as he feared for his life when he shot and killed 22-year-old James Scurlock.
The shooting occurred at around 11 p.m. Sat in the city’s Old Market area, a couple blocks from where protesters had gathered. Gardner, who owns two bars near where the shooting happened, fired the fatal shot during a scuffle with protesters outside one of his bars.
Kleine called Scurlock’s death “senseless,” and he showed video clips of the shooting obtained from nearby businesses, offering an account of what based on the video and witness accounts. Scurlock and others could be seen speaking Gardner in front of his bar, when one of them pushed Gardner’s father to the ground.
Gardner is seen backing away from Scurlock and the others, asking them to leave him alone and not to damage his business, then lifted his shirt to display a handgun in his waistband. The group attacked Gardner and the melee fell into a puddle on the street in front of the bar. Gardner grabbed his gun and fired two shots..
Gardner was tackled by Scurlock from behind as he tried to stand and later told police Scurlock had him in a chokehold. He then fired one shot which struck Scurlock in the collarbone. Scurlock died after being taken to a hospital. Kleine said Gardner appeared remorseful, scared, and shocked when he was interviewed by investigators.
Attorney and State Senator Justin Wayne is representing the Scurlock family and call it “disappointing” that Kleine met with community leaders about the decision before telling Scurlock’s father.
Wayne, who is black, asked that a grand jury be formed because the facts in the case are a “credibility issue” that should be decided by a jury – adding that at least a weapons charge should be filed since Gardner’s concealed-carry permit was expired.
Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, and Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer held a joint news conference after Kleine’s. All 3 offered condolences to Scurlock’s family and friends.
Mayor Stothert, who imposed an 8 pm to 6 am curfew Sunday that runs through Tues night, said the past few days have been some of the darkest in Omaha’s history while Ricketts said the level of disruption and chaos in both Omaha and Lincoln has not been seen in recent memory. He also offered thanks to peaceful protesters and law enforcement among others.
Ricketts called Scurlock’s death a tragedy and warned that violence in response to Kleine’s decision not to file charges is not the answer. He urged people to protest peacefully, then go home when curfew comes, adding that any “violence detracts from the memories of the people who are lost.”
About 130 arrests were made Sunday night when protesters refused to go home at the 8 PM curfew time. By comparison, 21 arrests were made during Friday night’s protests and 51 on Saturday.
Of those arrested Sunday, 46 were charged with failure-to-disperse – all but 6 of them under 30. Another 67, all but 13 under 30, were charged with violating the mayor’s curfew order.
The remaining arrests were on charges including disorderly conduct, obstructing officers, resisting arrest, unlawful assembly, and carrying a concealed weapon, the records.