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The white bar owner in Nebraska who was indicted in the killing of a black man during protests has reportedly taken his own life, according to his attorney.
Jake Gardner was found dead Sunday in what appears to be a possible suicide, with attorneys indicating his death was “by his own hand” just as he was set to return to Omaha to turn himself in after a grand jury indicted him last week in the incident in May during protests that erupted after the death of George Floyd.
Hillsboro Police Department officers “responded to the 300 block of Southeast Ninth Avenue around 12:20 p.m. after a body was found outside a medical clinic,” police said, according to KETV, adding that they “discovered 38-year-old Jacob Gardner of Omaha, Nebraska, dead.”
“The family of Jake Gardner has asked Tom Monaghan and myself to share the news of his death today, at his own hand,” Gardner’s attorney, Stu Dornan, said.
The Iraq war veteran had been charged with manslaughter in the death of 22-year-old James Scurlock back on May 30 after a confrontation outside one of his bars in Omaha. In the exchange with a group of protesters that night, Gardner was knocked off his feet and allegedly fired warning shots as he attempted to stand up again. Scurlock was fatally shot as he got into a scuffle with the bar owner.
“I want to make it very clear that this was a clear case of self-defense,” Dornan said Sunday, noting that the decorated veteran who had suffered two traumatic brain injuries and PTSD after multiple tours in Iraq, had reportedly felt he was back in a war zone the night of the incident.
Although Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine did not file charges as he found that Gardner had acted in self-defense, a grand jury charged him with manslaughter, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, attempted first-degree assault and making terrorist threats.
“It’s stressful. 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,” Gardner, an Iraq War veteran, told KETV before being indicted.
Gardner reportedly left Omaha for California following Scurlock’s death due to alleged death threats, but planned to return turn himself in as the arrest warrant had been issued.
“The grand jury indictment was a shock to him,” Dornan said. “He was really shook up.”
“Jake was worried he was going to get shot on the way here, that some of those folks would gave him death threats…would carry through with them,” attorney Tom Monaghan said, also noting that social media posts about the fatal shooting had made Gardner seem guilty before a trial had ever even begun.
“There’s no way to defend the lies on social media. When you respond, you only make it worse,” he said. “We have to stop the lies.”
Even Democrat state Senator Megan Hunt seemed to take a shot at the man who was defending his property against rioters that night, tweeting that the “white supremacist attitudes that emboldened him” remain even though Gardner had died.
The indictment of Jake Gardner would never have happened without the community, the people, who stood up for justice and demanded action from city officials. Jake Gardner is gone, but the white supremacist attitudes that emboldened him are still with us today. https://t.co/IFw5ZXepAz
— Senator Megan Hunt 😷 (@NebraskaMegan) September 21, 2020
“I’m angry he didn’t have the opportunity for a fair trial, for a fair hearing,” Dornan, Gardener’s attorney, said at Sunday’s press conference.
Dornan and Monaghan also revealed new evidence in the case, saying “Gardner was inside his bar on May 30 when he heard what he thought was a bullet coming through the front window of his business.” It was later identified as a pole that had shattered the glass. Dornan said people began climbing into Gardner’s bar, so he pulled the fire alarm, called police, and went out front. That’s where the altercation between his father and another protester began, and where Scurlock and Gardner’s struggle ensued.
The attorneys who reported in their press conference that Gardner died by suicide Sunday morning said he did not leave a note.
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