OMAHA — The night James Scurlock was shot and killed by bar owner Jake Gardner, Gardner and other people sat inside his downtown bar with a shotgun and three handguns, discussing how they would deal with looters.
Special prosecutor Fred Franklin talked Wednesday about the evidence Omaha police had gathered about the May 30 fatal shooting of Scurlock, 22, by Gardner, 38. The shooting occurred during a night of protests over the May 25 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
A grand jury led by Franklin charged Gardner last week with four felonies: manslaughter, attempted first-degree assault, making terroristic threats and weapon use. Sunday, authorities said, Gardner killed himself in Hillsboro, Oregon.
As he was sitting in the bar, Franklin said, Gardner was texting back and forth with people who were providing reports on what was happening downtown and in the Old Market. As they sat in the darkened bar, Franklin said, Gardner made reference in texts and Facebook messages to looters and how they could be dealt with. One of the conversations dealt with whether the "field of fire" from inside The Hive was clear, Franklin said.
Franklin also noted Gardner’s affinity for the president.
No one tried to go inside the bar, Franklin said, but vandals broke out the bar's windows. It would be understandable that Gardner was frustrated, Franklin said, and "you would imagine he emerged from that business with some anger about what had happened."
When Gardner went outside, Franklin said, the question becomes whether his state of mind was consistent with using deadly force.
Less than 10 minutes after Gardner emerged from the bar, Franklin said, David Gardner, Gardner's father, confronted someone videotaping what was happening in the streets. One thing that can be concluded from looking at the video, Franklin said, is that after David Gardner was knocked down and Jake Gardner started heading toward him, he didn't go to help his father up. Instead, he said, Gardner went after the person who knocked his father down.
Gardner, who had a handgun in his waistband, later ended up in the confrontation after Scurlock jumped on Gardner's back and Gardner shot Scurlock.
"I was saddened and am still saddened about Jake Gardner having taken his own life," Franklin said. The death, he said, "deprived the community to be able to have this evidence play out at trial."
Franklin said he delayed giving a statement until Wednesday in the hope that he would have a report from the Hillsboro Police Department detailing its findings concerning Gardner's suicide, but he said he had not yet received the report.