The Nebraska store owner who fatally shot the rioter who was seen on video attacking him from behind and putting him into a chokehold has committed suicide, according to his attorney.
The body of 38-year-old military veteran Jacob Gardner was found outside a medical clinic in the 300-block of Southeast Ninth Avenue at approximately 12:20 p.m. on [September 19 2020], the Hillsboro Police Department (HPD) in Oregon confirmed, according to KETV.
Just days earlier, Special Prosecutor Frederick Franklin announced that an Omaha grand jury decided to indict Gardner on charges of terroristic threats, attempted first-degree assault, use of a weapon to commit a felony, and manslaughter in the May 30  death of 22-year-old James Scurlock, KETV reported.
The story went on:
The indictment was handed down more than three months after Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine announced Gardner had acted in self-defense and that no charges would be filed against him in connection with [the May 30 2020 death of 22-year-old James Scurlock].
Gardner, a decorated military veteran who served multiple tours in Iraq, said he felt as if he was in a war zone during the chaotic chain of events that preceded the fatal shooting, his attorney, Stu Dornan, told KETV.
Both the headline and the content of the reporting was questionably slanted, describing the victim as a “rioter” who “attacked” Gardner; the piece framed Gardner as having necessarily acted in self-defense — despite the fact a grand jury’s review of the evidence in the shooting led to his indictment on several criminal charges.
According to Media Bias/Fact Check, BlueLivesMatter.blue/The Police Tribune is deeply partisan and does not seem overly fond of hewing to reality:
These media sources are moderately to strongly biased toward conservative causes through story selection and/or political affiliation. They may utilize strong loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes), publish misleading reports and omit reporting of information that may damage conservative causes. Some sources in this category may be untrustworthy.
- Overall, we rate Blue Lives Matter/Police Tribune Right Biased based on story selection and editorial positions that routinely favor the right. We also rate them Mixed for factual reporting due to the use of poor sources and a few unverified claims via fact-checkers.
… The website also frequently reports negatively on Black Lives Matter highlighting crimes and implying they are racist[.] In general, Blue Lives Matter/Police Tribune presents a strong conservative bias that utilizes poor sources and publishes news that is not always verified as factual.
The Death of Jacob Gardner in the News
Less partisan reporting around Gardner’s death appeared in the New York Times on September 20 2020:
A white bar owner charged in the fatal shooting of a Black man during a protest in Nebraska in May  — less than a week after the killing of George Floyd — has died by suicide, the man’s lawyer said on Sunday.
The bar owner, Jacob Gardner, was indicted by a grand jury on Sept. 15  in connection with the deadly confrontation with James Scurlock on May 30  in Omaha, one that initially appeared would not lead to criminal charges.
The case touched off large protests and prompted the appointment of a special prosecutor, who gathered additional evidence and presented it to a grand jury.
Mr. Gardner, 38, who was in Oregon when he took his own life, had been expected to fly home to turn himself in to the authorities on [September 20 2020] in Nebraska, his lawyer, Stuart J. Dornan, said at a news conference.
Gardner was indicted on charges for shooting and killing Scurlock on May 30 2020 amidst ongoing protests in Omaha (and other cities across the United States.) According to the Times, Gardner was indicted on September 15 2020; he died by suicide in Oregon on September 20 2020 — the day he was to surrender to authorities following the indictment.
The same article reported that the local district attorney declined to indict Gardner. Scurlock’s family circulated a petition requesting a review by a grand jury, which ultimately indicted Gardner on charges including manslaughter, using a firearm in the commission of a felony, and making terroristic threats:
Mr. Gardner was not initially charged with a crime. On June 1 , the Douglas County attorney, Donald Kleine, said Mr. Gardner had acted in self-defense when he fired his gun.
In response, Mr. Scurlock’s family collected enough signatures from the public to request the convening of a grand jury. Under Nebraska state law, such an effort can prompt a case to be heard by a grand jury.
By June 8 , the county attorney said that, after hearing from the public and other elected officials, he would welcome an outside review “in this rare instance.”
Community Efforts to Revisit Kleine’s Decision
On June 3 2020, the Washington Post reported on Kleine’s conclusion that Gardner had acted in self-defense, contrasted with witness accounts of the altercation and allegations that Gardner’s father used racist language:
At one point in the mayhem [during ongoing protests], Scurlock and his friends got into an argument with a local bar owner, Gardner, 38, and his 68-year-old father, authorities said. The proprietor owns a bar called the Hive, a tribute to local-band-made-good 311.
Gardner, a former Marine, pleaded guilty to a charge of carrying a concealed weapon in 2011, and a similar charge against him was dropped in 2013 in a case in which he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, records show. His permit to carry a concealed weapon is expired, authorities said.
Kleine presented surveillance camera video at a news conference [in June 2020] that showed Gardner and Scurlock exchange words after someone in the crowd pushed Gardner’s father. The confrontation worsened, and two men ended up tussling with Gardner on the ground, during which time Gardner fired what the prosecutor called “warning shots.” Scurlock’s friends fled and Scurlock then jumped on Gardner, who shot and killed him, authorities said … But witnesses told a different version of the altercation.
Derek Stephens, a local bartender who knows Gardner, was passing by shortly before the conflict became violent and said that he heard Gardner say “Kiss my white a–” and that Gardner’s father yelled the “n-word” at protesters.
“I feel like the old man instigated the incident with a racial slur,” Stephens said.
County authorities said that they are aware of the allegations and videos on social media that might indicate a racial element to the incident and that they are investigating.
The story continued:
Protesters and activists said authorities were presenting just one side of the story and did not investigate the matter fully before deciding against charging Gardner. While authorities saw a white man acting in self-defense, others saw a black man bravely protecting other people by jumping on a man firing a gun.
“The kid [Scurlock] jumped on an active shooter to stop him from continuing to discharge his weapon, and they are calling his murder justified,” protester Nikki Catron wrote in a Facebook post. “In my eyes, James Scurlock was a hero.”
CBS News reported that the grand jury’s indictment was based on information not reviewed by Kleine in his initial decision not to indict. Although BlueLivesMatter.blue/The Police Tribune quoted Gardner’s lawyer, it did not include all of his remarks:
His attorney, Stu Dornan, said in a news conference [on September 20 2020] that Gardner’s death was a suicide.
“Unfortunately, there are two men who have died in a terrible tragedy,” Dornan said. “It’s a terrible tragedy for the Omaha community, it’s a terrible tragedy for James Scurlock and his family. It’s a terrible tragedy for the Gardner family.”
CBS also included information about the grand jury’s review of evidence in Scurlock’s death:
Special Prosecutor Frederick Franklin has said the grand jury reviewed additional evidence that Kleine didn’t have, including texts from Gardner’s phone, messages on his Facebook profile and his interactions with bystanders before coming into contact with Spurlock.
Franklin declined to provide specifics of what the new evidence shows except to say it undermines the notion of self-defense.
An arrest warrant was approved for Gardner on [September 18 2020]. He was scheduled to return to Omaha on [September 20 2020] to face the charges against him, Dornan said.
Additional context about Gardner’s statements and state of mind were included in that coverage:
CBS Omaha affiliate KMTV reports that Dornan said Gardner suffered two traumatic brain injuries and PTSD during and from tours in Iraq.
Dornan said Gardner told him he thought he was in a war zone outside the bar with the violence, tear gas and mass confusion.
He added that Gardner was extremely upset and remorseful about the events that took place the night of the shooting and didn’t initially know what happened to Scurlock.
A viral article reporting that Jacob Gardner died by suicide on September 20 2020 after he was indicted in the shooting death of protester James Scurlock went viral, but the piece was deeply slanted and omitted important details about the chain of events.
On May 30 2020, in the course of national protests over the death of George Floyd, Scurlock was shot and killed in an altercation. Local district attorney Kleine initially deemed the shooting occurred in self-defense, and declined to indict Gardner.
A public outcry then ensued, leading to a petition requesting a grand jury review evidence in the shooting of James Scurlock. The grand jury reviewed additional evidence not considered by Kleine — including Gardner’s Facebook and text messages and eyewitness accounts of the altercation. A warrant for Gardner’s arrest was approved on September 18 2020, and he was to turn himself in to authorities on September 20 2020. On that day, he died by suicide in Oregon.