A white Nebraska bar owner who was charged with manslaughter over the shooting of a black man during a chaotic night of George Floyd protests in May has been found dead from suicide.
Jake Gardner, an ex-Marine, was indicted by a grand jury for fatally shooting 22-year-old James Scurlock in Omaha on May 30.
On Friday, a judge signed paperwork to issue an arrest warrant for Gardner.
He was supposed to turn himself in on Sunday – but was found dead near Portland, Oregon.
Jake Gardner (left), an ex-Marine, was indicted by a grand jury for fatally shooting 22-year-old James Scurlock (right) in Omaha back on May 30
Gardner shot himself after authorities in Hillsboro, Oregon, received a call of a suicidal party, two law enforcement sources told the Omaha World-Herald.
The death happened this weekend, though Hillsboro police would not confirm the death or the time it happened.
Stu Dornan, Gardner’s attorney, confirmed his suicide, saying that his client – who he said had a traumatic brain injury and PTSD from his military days – would have been proved innocent.
‘This is a sad day,’ said Dornan on Sunday evening. ‘It did not have to happen.’
Dornan said it was time to end ‘trial by media’, and said it was ‘a clear case of self defense’.
He added: ‘He was deathly afraid of coming back here, because he did not feel he could get a fair trial. And who would blame him?’
Dornan said: ‘I’m a fan of the constitution. I’m a fan of self defense. I am angry at the rush to judgement, and at not having the opportunity to defend a man who had acted in self defense three times, and was found to have acted in self defense.
‘Yes, I am angry he didn’t have his opportunity for a fair trial, and a fair hearing.’
Gardner had been in northern California during the wildfires, and needed to be evacuated with other people.
Dornan said they were trying to arrange his reporting to Omaha authorities in the safest way possible.
‘When you throw in COVID, with respect to that danger and risk, and that law enforcement itself – it is always much easier to have someone turn themselves in.
‘This had exceptional circumstances.
‘This doesn’t take away from the death of Mr Scurlock. This is a terrible tragedy, for everyone involved.’
Scurlock, 22, died in the confrontation on May 30 during George Floyd protests in Omaha
Surveillance video showed Gardner in a confrontation with BLM protesters outside his bar prior to the shooting. Gardner was shoved to the ground by two people before he fired two shots. Scurlock then jumped on Gardner’s back and Gardner shot him
Dornan’s partner, Tom Monaghan, said that Gardner had already been found guilty by the city of Omaha.
‘We need to stop the violence. What happened in Minnesota should not have caused a riot in Omaha,’ he said.
‘A peaceful demonstration did not need to lead to violence and damage to property. But it did.’
Monaghan said they believed they could have proved Gardner was not guilty.
‘Jake was worried that he was going to get shot on the way here; that some of those folks who gave him death threats on his phone would carry through with them. He felt the threats were probably not credible, but you never know. I didn’t think they were credible enough to need to see him.
‘He became particularly worried when it was announced there was an arrest warrant. I can guarantee, there was not.’
Monaghan said that instead of an arrest warrant there was ‘an agreement to self-report’.
Gardner did not leave a suicide note.
Gardner, 38, was also facing charges of attempted first-degree assault, threats and using a weapon while committing a felony.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine had initially declined to file charges against Gardner, saying he had reviewed witness statements and video and believed the bar owner acted in self-defense.
Kleine, who was slammed for overlooking Gardner’s alleged racist history, asked the grand jury to review the case after he was heavily criticized.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine had initially declined to file charges against Gardner, saying the shooting was in self-defense
Special Prosecutor Frederick Franklin said the grand jury reviewed additional evidence that Kleine didn’t have, including texts from Gardner’s phone, messages on his Facebook profile and his interactions with bystanders before coming into contact with Spurlock.
He declined to provide specifics of what the new evidence shows except to say it undermines the self-defense theory.
‘There was significant evidence that was consistent with there being an intentional killing by Jake Gardner and that evidence comes primarily from him,’ Franklin said.
The shooting happened outside Gardner’s bar as protests and civil unrest unfolded in Omaha and across the US in the wake of the May 25 death of George Floyd.
Authorities have said Gardner shot Scurlock outside his downtown bar as he sought to ward off any theft or property damage.
Kleine later showed reporters some surveillance video that seemed to show Gardner, his father and protesters exchanging words before Gardner, flashing a gun, backed away.
Gardner was shoved to the ground by two people before he fired two shots, sending people scrambling. Scurlock then jumped on Gardner’s back and Gardner shot him.
Scurlock (above) was fatally shot outside Gardner’s bar as protests and civil unrest unfolded in Omaha and across the US in the wake of the May 25 death of George Floyd
While there was no audio with the video, Kleine said Gardner warned Scurlock to get off of him several times before he fired the fatal shot.
Critics of the initial investigation said Scurlock was trying to stop Gardner from hurting anyone.
Some witnesses initially said that Gardner had allegedly ‘taunted’ protesters and went out to the sidewalk yelling ‘n****r lover’.
Scurlock’s death sparked protests across Omaha in the days after prosecutors initially declined to file charges.
Just hours before the deadly clash, Gardner posted a status update on Facebook about protecting his business amid the unrest
Scurlock’s death sparked protests across Omaha in the days after prosecutors initially declined to file charges
In the wake of the shooting, prosecutors were accused of turning a blind eye to the Gardner’s alleged racist views and background.
Court documents have shown that he has a past criminal record stretching back to the late 1990s, which includes multiple weapons-related charges, as well as arrests on counts of assault and battery.
In 2016, Gardner, who reportedly self-identifies as a Libertarian, sparked a controversy when he posted on Facebook that transgender women should not use the women’s bathroom at his establishment, unless they have had their ‘appendage’ removed and their identification legally changed.
Just hours before the deadly clash, Gardner posted a status update on Facebook about protecting his business amid the unrest.
‘Just when you think, ‘what else could 2020 throw at me?’ Then you have to pull 48 hours of military style firewatch,’ Gardner wrote.
He was a retired Marine who served tours of duty in Iraq and Haiti between 2000-2004.