OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts used a Monday news conference in Omaha to urge calm in the aftermath of the announcement that no charges would be brought in the shooting death of a George Floyd protester Sat night by an Omaha bar owner.
Douglas County Attorney Doug Kleine determined that Jake Gardner acted in self-defense when he shot 23-year old James Scurlock during a group altercation outside one of his bars.
Ricketts called Scurlock’s death a tragedy and part of one of the worst weekends in Nebraska in many years with protests-turned-riots in Lincoln and Omaha.
Ricketts, who on Saturday and Sunday had condemned both Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer and the way peaceful protests had turned violent and destructive, said such violence “detracts from the memories of the people who are lost” such as Floyd.
Ricketts warned that violence in response to the decision not to file charges in Scurlock’s death is not the answer, and he urged people to protest peacefully, then go home when Omaha’s curfew begins at 8 pm.
He also said the demonstrations with crowds of over 1,000 people clustered into large groups could trigger another flare-up of coronavirus cases, but that allowing protesters to peacefully vent and exercise their free-speech rights outweigh concerns about the pandemic.
While in Omaha, Ricketts spoke with a group of pastors and community leaders, but stirred up a firestorm of his own that led at least one of the pastors to walk out.
The pastor posted later on social media that he left when the governor started one comment with “the problem I have with you people.”
In response, Ricketts released a statement reading “I chose my words poorly and apologized when it became apparent that I had caused offense.”