Man won’t be charged in fatal Nebraska protest shooting
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska bar owner won’t be charged in connection with the fatal shooting of a 22-year-old man during weekend protests in downtown Omaha over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, authorities said Monday.
The shooting occurred at around 11 p.m. Saturday in the city’s Old Market area and within a couple of blocks of where protesters had gathered. Police said they arrested someone within the hour in connection with the shooting of protester James Scurlock.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said Monday that Jake Gardner, who owns two bars near where the shooting happened, fired the fatal shot during a scuffle with protesters outside one of his bars. Kleine said the bar owner said he feared for his life before the shooting.
Prosecutors showed video of the incident before Kleine announced that he wouldn’t file charges. Shortly before the shooting the bar owner was backing up away from protesters and asking them to leave. Then the bar owner was shoved to the ground by two people before he fired two shots. Then Scurlock jumped on top of the bar owner. Kleine said Gardner asked Scurlock to get off of him several times before he fired the fatal shot.
“We felt that this case was a self-defense case at this point in time,” he said.
Kleine said he hoped the decision not to file charges won’t lead to more protests in Omaha. Gardner is white, and Scurlock was black.
“This decision may not be popular and may cause more people to be upset. I would hope that the they understand that we’re doing our job to the best of our ability in looking at the evidence and the law and that’s all we can do,” Kleine said.
Scurlock’s father, who is also named James Scurlock, said he hopes authorities will continue investigating his son’s shooting death and call a grand jury to review the evidence.
“What I want is justice, not a quick answer. This was a quick answer,” Scurlock said.
Following the shooting, which took place amid a second night of violent protests in Omaha when windows were smashed at numerous businesses, officials imposed a curfew on Nebraska’s largest city, and national guard troops were mobilized to help police. Tear gas was again used to disperse a crowd of protesters after curfew Sunday night in Omaha, but there were few problems with vandalism and violence.
Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert urged protesters to remain peaceful.
“The incident that happened up in Minnesota, it fractured relationships not only here but all over the country ... But now it is time to heal those fractures. The violence that we saw here doesn’t help anybody,” Stothert said.
Floyd, who was black and was handcuffed, died after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, used his knee to pin down Floyd’s neck for several minutes while Floyd pleaded for air and eventually stopped moving. Chauvin and the other three officers who took part in the arrest of Floyd, who was suspected of passing a counterfeit bill, were fired Tuesday. Chauvin was charged Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter charges, but the other three officers haven’t been charged.