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Nebraska bar owner charged in killing of Black man during George Floyd protests dies by suicide

Jacob Gardner, 38, had recently been indicted on manslaughter charges in the May 30 death of James Scurlock.
A memorial for James Scurlock on Sept. 16 near where he was shot and killed May 30 in Omaha, Neb.
A memorial for James Scurlock on Sept. 16 near where he was shot and killed May 30 in Omaha, Neb.Nati Harnik / AP

The white Omaha, Nebraska, bar owner charged in the May killing of a Black protester died by suicide Sunday, his attorneys said.

The man, Jacob Gardner, 38, was scheduled to return to Omaha on Sunday evening to hand himself over after a grand jury indicted him last week, attorney Stu Dornan said at a news conference Sunday. Gardner, who died outside Portland, Oregon, was facing charges of manslaughter, attempted first-degree assault, making terroristic threats and use of weapons in the killing of James Scurlock.

Scurlock, 22, was shot May 30 while protesting the death of George Floyd in police custody.

Gardner was taken into custody May 30 following the shooting and was released the next day. Prosecutor Don Kleine declined to press charges on the grounds that Gardner had been acting in self-defense when the shots were fired.

The deadly incident in Nebraska among Scurlock, Gardner and a few other unidentified people happened during protests against police brutality in the wake of Floyd's death in Minneapolis on May 25.

Gardner was pushed down during a scuffle outside the bar he owned and fired two shots, Kleine said in June. Scurlock then jumped on top of Gardner and "maintained a chokehold around his neck," while Gardner could be heard saying "get off me" many times, Kleine said. Gardner fired his gun again, fatally striking Scurlock in the clavicle.

Scurlock was taken to a hospital, where he died from his injuries. Gardner had a concealed carry weapon permit that was expired at the time of the shooting, Kleine said, according to NBC affiliate WOWT of Omaha.

The confrontation began when Gardner's father pushed some of the protesters as he was asking them to leave the bar, Kleine said. One of the protesters apparently pushed back at Gardner's father, which is when Gardner intervened.

Special prosecutor Fred Franklin, who led the grand jury, told the Omaha World-Herald that he had expected to uphold Kleine's finding, but he said evidence pointed elsewhere after reviewing Gardner's words, texts, messages and interactions with bystanders.

"Gardner was threatening the use of deadly force in the absence of being threatened with ... deadly force by James Scurlock or anyone who was associated with him," Franklin said, according to the World-Herald.

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Justin Wayne, the attorney for Scurlock's family, could not be immediately reached for comment. He told the World-Herald that it was would not be appropriate to comment so soon after Gardner's death.

Dornan declined to comment further Monday.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit for additional resources.