White Bar Owner Jake Gardner Takes His Own Life After Indictment for Killing Black Protester James Scurlock

Jake Gardner took his own life on the same day he was supposed to turn himself in.
Jake Gardner took his own life on the same day he was supposed to turn himself in.Getty Images

Jake Gardner's lawyers say his life suffered drastically following the shooting.

White Omaha bar owner Jake Gardner took his own life shortly after being indicted for killing James Scurlock, a Black man who was protesting the police killing of George Floyd earlier this summer. Gardner was awaiting arrest outside a medical clinic near Portland, Oregon when he was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound Sunday afternoon.

He shot himself on the day he on which he agreed to surrender to authorities in connection with four felony charges: manslaughter, attempted first-degree assault, terroristic threats and weapons use charges.

“The grand jury indictment was a shock to him, it was a shock to us, it was a shock to many people,” one of Gardner’s attorneys, Stu Dornan, told the Omaha World-Herald of his death. He said he had spoken to Gardner shortly after the indictment.

Gardner’s attorneys Dornan and Tom Monaghan said the suicide did not come as a surprise. In addition to having lost his bar and his home following the May 30 shooting, the 38-year-old former Marine also had head trauma after serving two tours in Iraq, which left him disabled and believing he was in a war-like environment during the protests that night, Dornan and Monaghan said.

During an encounter between Gardner and a group of protesters, Gardner fired his gun, shooting and killing Scurlock.

There was controversy surrounding the facts of that incident, however. Gardner claimed he acted in self-defense, which Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine originally believed when he declined to file charges after reviewing surveillance footage and witness statements, USA Today reported

However, after a series of protests, a special prosecutor presented the case to a grand jury, saying Gardner's own recollection of the events through text and Facebook messages showed that was not the case, which led to his indictment on four felony charges, according to the Washington Post. If convicted, Gardner could have faced up to 95 years behind bars, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

Scurlock’s family attorney Justin Wayne, told the Omaha World-Herald it would not be appropriate to comment so soon after Gardner’s death, but said the family is processing what the death means in their journey for justice.