The white, Trump-supporting bar owner who killed a Black Lives Matter protester in Nebraska has been found dead from an apparent suicide in Oregon, according to reports. Jake Gardner killed himself Sunday, the same day he was expected to turn himself in to authorities for the “manslaughter” of James Scurlock in Omaha in May.
Gardner, a local bar owner, originally faced no criminal charges at all, courtesy of Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine. The DA argued that Gardner shot Scurlock in self-defense despite Scurlock being unarmed. Kleine later allowed a grand jury to review his decision, with the independent panel ultimately moving last Wednesday to indict Gardner on charges of manslaughter, the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, attempted first degree assault and terroristic threats.
The fatal encounter in June began when Gardner’s father pushed a protester — not Scurlock — away from his son’s bar, prompting the protester to push the man back, video footage showed. Gardner responded by brandishing his gun before firing off two “warning shots.” As people bagan to tackle Gardner, Scurlock then comes into the frame. According to CNN, Gardner’s lawyer says Scurlock put his client in “a headlock and begged to be let go before shooting Scurlock in the clavicle.” The Omaha World-Herald reported that there was an “18-second struggle” and “Gardner switched the gun to his left hand and fired over his shoulder, killing Scurlock.”
Activist and organizer Ashley Yates described Gardner as a “known homophobic racist bigot whose friends congratulated him on the internet after he committed murder.”
Gardner also caused outrage in 2016 when he wrote on Facebook that transgender women should have had their “appendage” removed if they want to use women’s bathrooms.
“I’m asking transgender folk to use the unisex…bathroom,” he told the World-Herald at the time. “I don’t think it’s a big ask.”
His venue The Hive has also been subject to various complaints on social media, with people saying it discriminated against Black patrons. One person tweeted that Gardner personally refused entry to her Black husband despite letting her white brother enter the building.
“I lost a son, my wife lost a son, my kids lost a brother,” Scurlock’s dad, who has the same name as his son, said in the days after the killing. “His daughter lost a father. All because he decided to protest against racism. There’s a lot of speculation and rumors about how this happened. I don’t really care to be honest. My family wants closure and peace.”
He continued: “What we want is for this to go to court and get a full prosecution. We want this to go with justice and go peacefully.”