Omaha Bar Owner Who Fatally Shot Violent Protester Won’t Be Charged: DA

June 2, 2020 Updated: June 3, 2020

A white bar owner in Nebraska who fatally shot a black man who assaulted him amid a protest following the death of George Floyd won’t be charged, the district attorney said.

“The actions of the shooter, the bar owner, were justified,” Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said at a press conference on June 1.

Jacob Gardner, who owns The Hive and Gatsby’s in Omaha, was tackled to the ground before shooting James Scurlock, 22, on May 30.

Kleine cited video evidence that prosecutors and police officers reviewed in making the determination, showing different angles of the scene in the Old Market area outside Gardner’s bar. He showed the videos at the briefing.

The footage shows Gardner’s father confronts people in the area, shoving one, after some businesses were broken into and damaged by individuals, including Scurlock. Another man runs over and punches the older male, prompting Gardner to run to where his father was. Scurlock then pushes the bar owner, who began backing down the street toward the bar as Scurlock and others continued advancing.

Two people tackled Gardner, who then fired two shots. The people who had tackled him fled. But Scurlock rushed over and tackled the bar owner. They grappled for several seconds before Gardner fired again, fatally wounding Scurlock.

Before the series of events, Gardner displayed his firearm and asked people to leave, Kleine said. Gardner said he didn’t know whether any of the people who assaulted him were armed and said he believed they were trying to take his weapon.

“If somebody is in fear for their own life or serious bodily injury and that they can’t, they don’t feel like they can retreat safely. The law says that even if they’re mistaken in their belief, if their belief has some reasonable basis, even if they’re mistaken, it’s still justifiable for that person to use deadly force,” Kleine said.

“We’re talking about a civilian who goes outside, is backing up, has told people to please just get out of here, backing up down the street on the sidewalk, and really is attacked, or jumped on, by several people, at once. Fires just a couple of shots to get people off of him, and then a third person jumps on his back, while he still has the firearm, and is wrestling with him and choking him to the point where he says, ‘I was in fear for my life.'”

James Scurlock II, Scurlock’s father, told reporters, “What I want is justice, not a quick answer.”

He called on officials to convene a grand jury, and blamed Gardner’s father.

“I honestly feel that if Mr. Gardner’s dad would have kept his hands to himself, the incident wouldn’t have happened in the beginning.”

Democratic state Sen. Justin Wayne, who is helping Scurlock’s family, pointed to Gardner having an expired concealed carry permit.

Omaha police officials said June 1 that Gardner could face misdemeanor charges or citations but held off until the primary issue was decided by Kleine.

Both the district attorney and Scurlock’s family and friends are asking for people with additional evidence, whether video footage or witnesses, to come forward.

Kleine condemned “misinformation” put out about the case, including from politicians and people running for Congress, citing “irresponsible” and “reckless” posts referring to the death as a “cold-blooded murder.”

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