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Omaha prosecutor says white bar owner killed black protester in self-defense

James Scurlock, 22, was shot while protesting the death of George Floyd.

The white Omaha bar owner who shot and killed a 22-year-old black protester on Saturday night will not be charged, the Douglas County Attorney announced on Monday.

James Scurlock, 22, was shot by local bar owner Jacob Gardner, while protesting the police custody death of George Floyd on Saturday, according to the prosecutor Don Kleine and NBC Ohama affiliate WOWT.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine begins his news conference responding to the death of James Scurlock on June 1, 2020.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine begins his news conference responding to the death of James Scurlock on June 1, 2020.WOWT

Gardner was taken into custody on Saturday following the incident and was released on Sunday after Kleine declined to press charges on the grounds that Gardner had been acting in self-defense when the shots were fired.

The Saturday night confrontation between Scurlock, Gardner, and a few other unidentified people happened amid protests in the city against police brutality in the wake of Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

According to the prosecutor, Gardner was pushed down during a scuffle and fired two shots. 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 in a press conference Monday. Gardner fired his gun again, fatally striking Scurlock in the clavicle.

Scurlock was taken to a local 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 WOWT. It was not immediately clear who was representing Gardner and Gardner did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The confrontation began when Gardner's father pushed some of the protesters when asking them to leave the bar. One of the protesters pushed back at Gardner’s father, which is when Gardner intervened, according to Kleine.

Kleine also said at a Monday press conference that despite what was being said on social media, there “was never any racial tone to any of the conversation” between Gardner and Scurlock.

Gov. Pete Ricketts said at a press conference Monday that “the loss of anybody’s life is a tragedy, certainly a personal tragedy for the family and a tragedy for the community,” while urging the people of Omaha to keep protests peaceful.

Ricketts said of Kleine’s decision not to charge Gardner, “If in his judgement at this time there is not the evidence to bring charges I believe him.”

State Senator Justin Wayne, who was speaking on behalf of Scurlock's family Monday, condemned the decision not to bring charges against Gardner.

“In this community, we prosecute black and brown individuals a lot more for things like we just watched," Wayne said, referring to the footage shown by Kleine of the incident at the press conference.

On Sunday, Scurlock’s family held a press conference where they called for the prosecution of Gardner.

“My family wants closure and peace,” a family member of Scurlock said. “What we want is for this to go to court and get a full prosecution.”

Omaha saw a weekend of unrest as residents protested the death of George Floyd, leaving damage to some buildings. Over 100 people were arrested in Omaha on Sunday, according to WOWT.