A grand jury has indicted an Omaha bar owner in the fatal shooting of a Black protester after authorities had decided not to bring charges against him.
James Scurlock, a 22-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by a White bar owner during a fight with several people on May 30 in Omaha, Nebraska, amid protests related to the police killing of George Floyd. Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine declined to bring charges against the shooter, Jake Gardner, saying he acted in self-defense.
But days later, Kleine petitioned for a grand jury to review his decision, which at the time he said he stood by. Meanwhile, the Omaha Police Department was continuing its investigation, Special Prosecutor Frederick Franklin told reporters when announcing the decision Tuesday in video obtained by CNN affiliate KETV.
Gardner was charged with manslaughter, the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, attempted first degree assault and terroristic threats, Franklin said.
The indictment is not a sign that Kleine was wrong in his decision, Franklin said. But after more that 60 interviews conducted by the Omaha Police Department and evidence taken from cell phones, video footage and social media, the grand jury was presented with more information than Kleine’s office had at the time, he said.
CNN has reached out to Gardner for comment.
How the shooting unfolded
Two videos depict scenes from the incident. As described by prosecutors, Gardner’s father asked protesters outside the Gatsby bar to leave and pushed one. An unidentified man can be seen pushing Gardner’s father back, and then Gardner intervened. Scurlock was not part of that group, the family attorney Justin Wayne said.
Gardner had a handgun tucked in his waistband and lifted his shirt to show it during his confrontation with protesters, Kleine said of one video.
Two people jumped on Gardner’s back, and he fired two warning shots, the county attorney said. Within moments, Scurlock jumped into the fray, according to authorities. Gardner told police he was put in a chokehold and he begged for the assailant to get off of him, according to Kleine.
Gardner then shot Scurlock in the clavicle, killing him.
“He thought he was in danger of losing his life or serious bodily injury,” Kleine said.
Kleine said that “there isn’t any audio that we have that shows any racial slurs” and, after reviewing the evidence, he doesn’t feel that the owner was “somebody who walked out and was trying to hunt down somebody.”
Wayne, the family attorney, said Scurlock was trying to protect a family member and friend.
“I surely believe none of this would have happened if the bar owner’s father didn’t put his hands on a young individual ahead of time,” he said.
Grand jury meant to show the system works
When he requested the grand jury in June, Kleine said it was in response to conversations with members of the community.
He acknowledged that “many others do not have the same faith in the system that I do.”
“I would like to do everything I can to assure people that the system works the way it should work,” Kleine said.
But an attorney for Scurlock’s family said the decision not to bring charges was a rush to judgement and the shooter had an expired concealed carry permit.
“We watched a video where anybody else would have gotten charged with something,” said Wayne, WOWT reported in June. “We are asking for a grand jury and charges to be brought against (Gardner).”