KEY POINTS

  • Omaha resident and bar owner Jake Gardner was indicted on multiple charges, including manslaughter
  • Gardner argues he acted in self-defense during an altercation in May when he shot James Scurlock outside his bar
  • An attorney for Scurlock's family said they were growing frustrated by the seemingly slow progress made on the case

A white bar owner in Nebraska is facing multiple charges for the shooting of a Black protester during an alleged fight outside his bar in May. The charges against Jake Gardner, 38, include manslaughter, use of a firearm in the commission for a felony, attempted assault and making terrorist threats.

“The grand jury returned an indictment today [Tuesday] against Jake Gardner,” special prosecutor Frederick Franklin told reporters. “They were able to able to get evidence into Mr. Gardner's state of mind as a part of what was presented to them through this investigation.”

The altercation took place on May 30, five days after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis.

Gardner, a former U.S. Marine, previously said he was at one of his bars in Omaha, Nebraska, pulling a “military-style firewatch” during the first days of the summer’s Black Lives Matter protests. Surveillance footage showed two men, identified as Tucker Randall and James Scurlock, outside the bar throwing a signpost at the window.

Police said Gardner and his father, David, went outside but did not see who threw the sign. The younger Gardner pushed a woman who was walking by at the time. In turn, police said Randall ran back down the street and pushed Gardner’s father to the ground. Gardner checked on his father when Scurlock came up and pushed him from behind, prompting Gardner to pull a gun from his waistband.

Footage showed a woman, who has not been identified, tackling Jake Gardner to the ground before he fired what he said were “two warning shots.” The woman and Randall fled, but police said Scurlock put the younger Gardner into a choke-hold while Gardner’s father yelled “get off him.” Jake Gardner fired over his shoulder, striking and ultimately killing Scurlock.

Since the shooting, Jake Gardner and his family have argued his actions were purely in self-defense after he was assaulted by the protesters while trying to defend his business. He also denied he is racist despite allegations by former employees, customers and some relatives.

“My family has never said or acted negatively toward anyone based on their skin color or anything of that nature,” he told the Omaha World-Herald recently.

He told reporters before the indictment was handed down on Tuesday the stress of the investigation was worse than anything he felt while in the Marines.

“It’s stressful,” Gardner told Omaha ABC-affiliate KETV. “I’m more anxious now than when I was flying to Iraq. I was in from the end of 2000 until the end of 2004. All trained up by 9/11. I was there in 2003 during the invasion and in Haiti in 2004 to break up the civil unrest.”

This anxiousness was shared by Scurlock’s family and their attorney, Justin Wayne, who said the family was growing frustrated by the length of the investigation.

“It was their brother, his son, that lost his life,” Wayne told reporters after the indictment. “It’s also kind of a disappointment, a reminder, that it was a tale of two cities.”

“While this family is thankful, this family is also frustrated that it took this process to occur.”

Wayne criticized Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine, the original prosecutor assigned to the case for declining to press charges against Gardner, accepting his self-defense claims. Wayne called this a “rush to judgment,” adding it displayed a double standard by local law enforcement.

However, Franklin said Tuesday’s indictment shouldn’t be taken as criticism against Kleine’s decision not to press charges.

“These are not easy decisions,” Franklin said. “We make them on a daily basis. When you’re talking about the death of an individual, there’s a lot of emotions, a lot of things that come into play.”

“We petitioned for this grand jury; we were not afraid of it. They made a decision and we’ll see what happens.”

Gardner’s legal team is expected to try and get the indictment thrown out.

Courtroom This photo shows a view of the defendant's table in a courtroom closed due to budget cuts and layoffs, at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles on March 16, 2009. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images