A white Nebraska bar owner is walking free after the local DA declined to charge him for fatally shooting James Scurlock, a 22-year-old unarmed black man, during protests against police brutality in Omaha Saturday night.
Douglas County District Attorney Don Kleine called the shooting “senseless” but said that Jake Gardner, 38, was justified in his decision to shoot Scurlock because he “feared for his own life or serious bodily injury.” A lawyer representing Scurlock’s family said Gardner had a concealed weapons permit that was expired at the time of the shooting.
There’s video of the shooting, which Kleine played at the press conference announcing his decision to decline charges against Gardner. Kleine said that protesters had broken some windows at The Hive bar, which Gardner owns, and Gardner’s father went outside to confront them. Video shows Gardner’s father arguing with a small group of protesters, until one shoves him back about 10 feet. Gardner then comes in and demands to know who was responsible for pushing his father.
Things then escalate quickly. Scurlock and Gardner exchange words, and then a bystander is heard yelling “He has a gun... It’s not worth it.” In that time, the two men got into a scuffle; 10 seconds later, Gardner shot and killed Scurlock.
Gardner told Kleine with lawyers present that he first fired a warning shot, and then Scurlock jumped on him. He claimed that he thought Scurlock was going to take his gun, so he fired another shot at Scurlock, killing him.
Kleine disputed rumors online that claimed Gardner had used racial slurs during the encounter. He also said he’d be willing to reconsider charges against Gardner if additional witnesses came forward or if he found new evidence.
“Last night I lost a son. My kids lost a brother. His daughter lost a father,” Scurlock’s father, also named James, told the Omaha World-Herald. “We want them to go to court.”
"In this community, we prosecute black and brown individuals a lot more for things like we just watched," Scurlock’s family lawyer Justin Wayne said at a press conference. "[Gardner) had an unlawful carry concealed weapon."
"We watched a video where anybody else would have gotten charged with something," Wayne added. "We are asking for a grand jury and charges to be brought against [Gardner]."
Gardner owns several businesses in Omaha, and according to the Daily Beast, is a self-described Libertarian who has been arrested on criminal charges at least four times, including assault and battery, and failing to tell an officer he had a concealed handgun.
In 2017, he posed for a photo with Donald Trump Jr. with the caption “Here’s a guy who returns my emails 100 percent of the time, every time. #FAKENEWS. ”
In anticipation of protests related to the decision not to prosecute Gardner, city officials told businesses in downtown Omaha to close early and send employees home.
Cover: Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine speaks to reporters at the Douglas County District Court in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, May 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)