The grand jury examining the shooting death of 22 year old James Scurlock during a May protest in downtown Omaha has returned with an indictment of manslaughter for Jake Gardner.
Special Prosecutor Frederick Franklin said Gardner is also being indicted on three other charges including terrorist threats, attempted first-degree assault and felony use of a weapon. The assault charge recommendation stems from a warning shot Gardner took, Franklin said.
The grand jury received information including evidence from Gardner’s Facebook messages and materials found within his home, Franklin said. “I told the grand jurors when I was first appointed to work this case that I expect to ultimately end up at the conclusion of their decision making to stand in front of the press and say the same thing Don Kleine said: that the shooting was justifiable self-defense,” he said.
To the Omaha community, Franklin said he was aware “of folks waiting to reignite riots," and it saddened him. “For the people who are supportive of James Scurlock, his father stated after he was killed that he did not condone and did not want that type of behavior,” he said. To engage in such behavior dishonors those who have died and “plays into the hands of the people against what you are protesting for.”
“Folks, ya’ll getting played with such behavior,” Franklin said.
A visibly increased police presence around the courthouse and downtown was present Tuesday. The Civic Center was taped off and barricades were common.
Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert released the following statement in reaction to Gardner’s indictment:
“I ask everyone to accept the grand jury’s decision and respect the confidentiality of the grand jury process. The case against Jake Gardner will now move to trial. The U.S. Constitution guarantees all defendants, including Mr. Gardner, a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury. My priority now will be to keep our citizens and the city safe.”
Scurlock, a black man, was shot and killed May 30 in the Old Market by Gardner, a white bar owner, during local protests of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Monday marked the second week for the grand jury. Franklin, a long-time federal prosecutor, began presenting evidence to jurors last week and offering guidance on the law as they decided whether to bring charges against Gardner.