County Attorney Will Not Press Charges in Weekend Omaha Protest Shooting

June 1, 2020, 5 p.m. ·

Busineses in Omaha have closed in anticipation of continued protests Monday night. (Photo by Bill Anderson, NET News)

The Douglas County Attorney’s office announced Monday afternoon charges will not be pressed against Jake Gardner, a white Omaha business owner who shot and killed 22-year old black protester James Scurlock on Saturday night. Scurlock was part of protests in Omaha following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Gardner is the owner of the Hive bar in Omaha.

County Attorney Don Kleine presented security video of the shooting which he says shows the killing was in self-defense. Kleine said under Nebraska law a person has the right to use deadly force if there is some basis for a fear of death or significant injury, even if that fear is mistaken.

According to the security video and other footage circulating online, Scurlock is seen among a group of other protesters speaking with Gardner before one bystander called out, "Oh, he got a gun on him!"

After Gardner appears to fire some warning shots, Scurlock appears to end up on top of him a few moments later.

Kleine later expressed concern that misinformation around the details of the shooting have spread on social media, including that Gardner yelled racial slurs at protesters before the attack. Kleine denied the reports, saying there was no available audio that confirmed them.

He also called Scurlock’s death senseless.

“It emanated from, what was intended by very good people who were exercising their first amendment rights as a peaceful protest, that was the purpose," Kleine said. "And unfortunately in the end after that evening there was damage to property and Mr. Scurlock was killed.

Kleine asked anyone who has more evidence in the case to send it to the county attorney’s office.

Scurlock’s father criticized the decision as a quick answer rather than justice, saying there is plenty more video needs to be reviewed before the case is put to rest.

"This is a situation that happened with so much media around it, and I'm not talking about the press. I'm talking about our kids," James Scurlock II said. "Our kids got more media than the media does...and they post everything."

State Senator Justin Wayne of Omaha, who is legally representing the family, agreed more video submissions are necessary, and asked that a grand jury review be invoked to review that evidence.

"What Mr. Kleine discussed were credibility issues," he said. "If he believes that there was self defense, if he believes one thing or another, that is not for me or Mr. Kleine to decide, but a jury of peers."

Scurlock II has repeatedly pleaded that any protests in the wake of his son's death remain peaceful. Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert has declared a state of emergency and enacted a curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Authorities reported alerted several small and large businesses about concerns of continued protests and unrest, prompting evacuations and boarded windows. Many sent their employees home early, including those working at the Douglas County Courthouse.