A grand jury has charged a white bar owner in Omaha with the death of a Black protester back in May.
ABC News reports that Jake Gardner has been charged with manslaughter over the death of 22-year-old James Scurlock. Scurlock was among those in Omaha protesting police brutality following the death of George Floyd. Surveillance video of the incident shows Gardner, his father, and a group of protesters trading words before Gardner pulls a gun and begins to back away. After being pushed to the ground, Gardner fired two shots which sent the protesters fleeing. Scurlock then jumped on Gardner’s back, and Gardner shot him.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine initially decided not to file charges against Gardner, believing that he acted in self-defense. Kleine faced scrutiny over the decision, with critics believing Scurlock was trying to prevent other protesters from being hurt. In the wake of that criticism, Kleine requested for a grand jury to review the case. Special Prosecutor Frederick Franklin said that the grand jury had access to evidence that Kleine had not seen.
Franklin said that text messages on Gardner’s phone, messages he sent on Facebook and his interactions with protesters prior to the shooting undermine the idea he was acting purely in self-defense. “There was significant evidence that was consistent with there being an intentional killing by Jake Gardner, and that evidence comes primarily from him,” Franklin told ABC News.
Franklin hopes the charges don’t lead to another wave of protests in Omaha. “This is not a time for celebration or exuberance. These are simply charges,” Franklin said. “Jake Gardner is a man presumed innocent as I stand here before you right now.” In addition to the manslaughter charge, Gardner faces charges of attempted assault, making terroristic threats, and using a gun to commit a felony.
Scurlock’s family is still mourning his death and Justin Wayne, the family’s attorney, has said the long road to justice has been a struggle for them.
“While this family is thankful,” Wayne said, “this family is also frustrated that it took this process to occur.”