Omaha, Nebraska — A White business owner charged with manslaughter for fatally shooting a Black man during protests in Nebraska has died by suicide days after his indictment, his attorney said Sunday.
Jacob Gardner, of Omaha, Nebraska, was found dead Sunday outside a medical clinic in Hillsboro, Oregon, the Hillsboro Police Department said in a news release. His attorney, Stu Dornan, said in a news conference Sunday evening 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.”
A grand jury on Tuesday charged Gardner, 38, with manslaughter in the death of James Scurlock, the Black man authorities say Gardner shot May 30 during a protest against police brutality and racial injustice outside Gardner’s bar in Omaha, Nebraska. Gardner was also charged with attempted assault, making terroristic threats and using a gun to commit a felony.
Gardner had said he fired the gun in self-defense.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine initially decided not to charge Gardner, saying he acted in self-defense. After intense criticism, a grand jury was called to examine the case, resulting in the charges that were filed against Gardner.
Dornan said Gardner, who had gone to California after the shooting, was “really shook up” after the grand jury’s indictment. “The grand jury indictment was a shock to him, and it was a shock to us,” Dornan said.
Attorney Tom Monaghan, who also spoke during Sunday’s news conference, said “the community of Omaha had convicted Mr. Gardner on social media.”
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 Friday. He was scheduled to return to Omaha on Sunday to face the charges against him, Dornan said.
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.
Dornan said he advised Gardner to leave Omaha after Kleine initially announced no charges would be filed. Gardner allegedly received numerous death threats and fled to Northern California.
KMTV also reports that attorneys said Gardner planned to return to Omaha Sunday evening from the Portland, Oregon area, where he was visiting his father.