Jake Gardner was due to return to Omaha on Sunday to face charges for killing James Scurlock.
The Nebraska bar owner who was charged with manslaughter three months after shooting a Black man during protests against police violence has died by suicide, according to his 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.
Gardner’s body was found outside of a medical clinic in Oregon, where he had allegedly fled due to “great risks,” such as death threats, his attorney said.
The man was due to return to Omaha on Sunday night to face charges in the shooting death of 22-year-old James Scurlock outside of his establishment. A warrant for Gardner’s arrest had been signed on Friday, but the process had not been completed. He was expected to turn himself in this week.
“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.”
During the press conference, Gardner’s attorneys blamed their client’s suicide on a combination of his history of behavioral health problems as a result of a head trauma sustained as a Marine, as well as the belief that “people were out to kill him” and “an incessant rush to judgment” related to his charges on social media.
Scurlock was killed on May 30 as protests in Omaha inspired from the videotaped killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers spiraled into vandalism. He was walking down the street with several people when they approached The Gatsby bar, where Gardner, 38, and his father were standing.
The charges against Gardner were filed by a special prosecutor, Fred Franklin, after a grand jury reviewed the shooting following the original decision by Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine, who declined to file charges based on Gardner’s self-defense claims. Franklin’s probe found evidence that seriously undermined those assertions, “and that evidence comes primarily from Jake Gardner himself,” Franklin said.
Gardner’s family is expected to issue a statement today.
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