Chief: Man who shot Omaha protester could face gun charge
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — An Omaha bar owner who is not expected to face felony charges in the fatal shooting of an unarmed 22-year-old protester over the weekend could still face misdemeanor gun charges, the city’s police chief said.
Omaha police Chief Todd Schmaderer was among officials who addressed the case Monday in a set of news conferences, including one in which the county prosecutor announced business owner Jake Gardner would not be charged with a felony in the early Saturday morning shooting of James Scurlock.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said he believed Gardner, who is white, feared for his life when he shot Scurlock, who jumped on top of Gardner after the bar owner had already fired two shots. Scurlock, a black man, was unarmed.
But Gardner’s concealed carry permit for the gun had expired at the time of the shooting, officials acknowledged.
Asked about that, Schmaderer said police “can still make citations and arrests” on any misdemeanor gun violations.
Because carrying a concealed weapon without a permit is a misdemeanor, it would be up to the city’s prosecutor, Matt Kuhse, to file a charge. Kuhse did not immediately return a phone message Tuesday seeking comment.
The shooting happened as protests roiled cities across the country over the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Floyd, who was black and handcuffed, died after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air. Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. No charges have been filed against three other officers who were on the scene.
The Omaha shooting happened outside Gardner’s bar, The Hive, as Gardner sought to ward off any theft or property damage. Officials played surveillance video that seemed to show words exchanged between Gardner, his father and protesters before Gardner, flashing the gun, backed away from the protesters. Gardner was shoved to the ground by two people before he fired two shots, sending people scrambling. Scurlock then jumped on Gardner’s back and was shot by Gardner. While there was no audio with the video, Kleine said, based on witness testimony, that Gardner warned Scurlock to get off of him several times before he fired the fatal shot.
The decision not to charge Gardner in the shooting was met with a mix of responses on social media, with some lauding the announcement. Others argued that that Scurlock likely only sought to stop a shooter from hurting others after Gardner had already fired two shots.
Following the shooting, officials imposed an 8 p.m. curfew and mobilized National Guard troops, fearing increased violence after the announcement that Gardner would not be charged. Businesses across the city — even those miles from downtown and central Omaha, which have been the main gathering places for protesters — closed their doors by midafternoon.
Despite the concerns, protests Monday remained peaceful, with some arrests of those who defied the curfew.