On Monday, The Root reported that 22-year-old James Scurlock was shot and killed by Jake Gardner, the white owner of two bars near the scene of the incident. Gardner was detained but not jailed while investigators looked into the shooting, and now, authorities have determined that it was a case of self-defense and Gardner will not be charged.
Video footage of the altercation posted to social media didn’t provide any real clarity as to what exactly happened but a number of bystanders claimed they heard Gardner using racial slurs and taunting protesters while wielding a gun. Between that and a Facebook post made by Gardner just hours before the shooting that read, “Just when you think, ‘what else could 2020 throw at me?’ Then you have to pull 48 hours of military-style firewatch,” it was widely believed that he instigated the confrontation. But according to investigators, that was not the case.
The Associated Press reports that Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said Monday that Gardner was only defending himself and would not be charged.
“We felt that this case was a self-defense case at this point in time,” Kleine said.
Prosecutors showed video of the incident before Kleine announced that he wouldn’t file charges. Shortly before the shooting the bar owner was backing up away from protesters and asking them to leave. Then the bar owner was shoved to the ground by two people before he fired two shots. Then Scurlock jumped on top of the bar owner. Kleine said Gardner asked Scurlock to get off of him several times before he fired the fatal shot.
Kleine noted that the decision not to charge Gardner could exacerbate tensions and lead to more protests.
“This decision may not be popular and may cause more people to be upset. I would hope that they understand that we’re doing our job to the best of our ability in looking at the evidence and the law and that’s all we can do,” he said.
Scurlock’s death sparked new protests and demonstrations in downtown Omaha over the weekend. His father, also named James Scurlock, spoke at the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation Visitors Center the day after the shooting, urging Kleine to take his son’s death seriously.
“Last night, I lost a son,” he said Sunday. “My kids lost a brother. His daughter lost a father. We want them to go to court.” He remains unconvinced that his son’s death was a result of self-defense and is calling for a grand jury to look at the evidence, according to AP.
“What I want is justice, not a quick answer. This was a quick answer,” Scurlock said.