Nebraska bar owner Jake Gardner, charged in fatal shooting of unarmed Black protester, dies by suicide, attorney says


A white bar owner charged with fatally shooting an unarmed Black man in May during protests in Omaha, Nebraska died by suicide in Oregon on Sunday, according to Gardner’s attorneys.

“The family of Jake Gardner has asked Tom Monaghan and myself to share the news of his death today, at his own hand,” attorney Stu Dornan said at a press conference Sunday.

The Hillsboro Police Department in Oregon is conducting an investigation into a cause of death after finding Gardner’s body outside a medical clinic, according to a news release.

Dornan said Gardner, 38, was scheduled to return to Omaha on Sunday night to face charges in the death of 22-year-old James Scurlock on May 30. A grand jury charged Gardner on Tuesday with manslaughter, attempted assault, making terroristic threats and using a gun to commit a felony.

“Unfortunately, there are two men who have died in a terrible tragedy,” Dornan said. “It’s a terrible tragedy for the Omaha community, it’s a terrible tragedy for James Scurlock and his family, it’s a terrible tragedy for the Gardner family.”

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Marchers rally in Omaha, Nebraska, on June 7 to remember James Scurlock, a Black man who was fatally shot by white bar owner Jake Gardner amid protests over George Floyd’s death. 

Gardner’s death comes two days after Douglas County District Judge James Gleason approved an arrest warrant but only signed the affidavit portion, the Omaha World-Herald reported. Gleason did not sign an actual warrant, the newspaper reported.

Dornan said Gardner left Omaha after the May 30 shooting due to “great risks,” such as death threats.

Gardner shot and killed Scurlock outside his bar in downtown Omaha as protests erupted across the country following the Memorial Day death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

The shooting was reviewed by a grand jury after Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine initially declined to file charges, believing that Gardner had acted in self-defense after reviewing video and witness statements. Kleine later requested the review after his decision was criticized to ensure people kept faith in the justice system.

Surveillance video seemed to show words exchanged between Gardner, his father and protesters 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 was shot by Gardner.

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