Jake Gardner, the White Nebraska bar owner who fatally shot Black Lives Matter protester, James Scurlock, outside his establishment on May 30 during an altercation has committed suicide days after he was indicted on a manslaughter charge by a grand jury.
In a statement released by the Hillsboro Police Department, Gardner’s body was found outside a medical clinic in Hillsboro on Sunday. The 38-year-old, who argued he shot Scurlock, 22, in self defense, was initially cleared of any wrongdoing by Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine. A grand jury was, however, later set up to look into the case after public backlash, CBS News reports.
“Unfortunately, there are two men who have died in a terrible tragedy,” Stu Dornan, Gardner’s attorney said at a news conference on Sunday. “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.”
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Gardner also faced other charges including use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, attempted first-degree assault and terroristic threats in the Tuesday indictment, CBS News reports. According to Dornan, Gardner moved to California to escape threats on his life after the shooting and was to turn himself in to authorities on Sunday evening following his indictment, adding that “he was really shook up” by the grand jury’s verdict.
Touching on what led to Gardner’s indictment, Special Prosecutor Frederick Franklin told the news publication they scrutinized messages on the deceased’s cell phone and Facebook page, as well as conversations he had with people around the bar prior to his confrontation with Scurlock. Franklin said Kleine did not have that additional evidence when he initially cleared Gardner. Franklin said the aforementioned evidence proved the accused did not act in self defense.
Dornan, said his client was a war veteran suffering from two traumatic brain injuries and the protests on the night of the shooting made him feel like he was in a war zone, KETV reports. Another attorney for the deceased, Tom Monaghan, blamed social media for making Gardner’s position untenable.
“There’s no way to defend the lies on social media. When you respond, you only make it worse,” Monaghan said. “We have to stop the lies.”
Prior to Gardner’s indictment, he told KETV: “It’s stressful. I’m more anxious now than when I was flying to Iraq. I was in from the end of 2000 till 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.”