POLITICS

Prosecutor Says No Charges In Deadly Shooting Of Omaha Protester James Scurlock

The county attorney concluded the bar owner killed the young Black man in self-defense, but his family wants a grand jury.

Authorities announced Monday that they are not seeking charges against the bar owner who shot and killed protester James Scurlock in Omaha, Nebraska, on Saturday night.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said he came to the decision after viewing video of the incident. He concluded that the white owner, Jake Gardner, acted legally in self-defense when he shot Scurlock, a Black 22-year-old protesting police brutality and racism, outside his Hive bar. 

“It is a senseless death, a loss of a young man’s life. It shouldn’t have happened,” Kleine said at a Monday press conference. But he added, “This decision may not be popular and may cause more people to be upset. I would hope that they understand that we’re doing our job to the best of our ability and looking at the evidence and the law. ... It can’t be based on emotions, it can’t be based on anger, It can’t be based on any of those things.”

Kleine walked reporters through the video, which shows Gardner’s father and a group of protesters pushing each other as the father asks them to leave the area. Gardner approaches the group, which includes Scurlock, and asks them who pushed his dad while revealing he has a gun. Some of the group then tackle him to the ground, from where Gardner fires two warning shots, Kleine said. Scurlock then jumps on top of Gardner, and after repeatedly shouting “Get off me,” Gardner shoots again, hitting Scurlock in the clavicle and killing him. 

“Deadly force can only be used if someone is in fear of their own life or serious bodily injury and they don’t feel like they can retreat safely,” Kleine said. “Even if they are mistaken, if their beliefs have a reasonable basis, it’s justifiable for them to use deadly force.”

He also said that despite comments he’s seen on social media, his office has heard no audio evidence or witness testimony verifying claims that Gardner used racial slurs against any of the protesters. 

Scurlock’s family expressed outrage at the decision.

“What I want is justice,” his father, James Scurlock II, told reporters. “Not a quick answer. This was a quick answer. I feel the state of Nebraska did not want to take it. They don’t want the tension and I understand that. I don’t want the tension. But this is a matter that must be looked at.”

Scurlock’s father and his attorney, Nebraska state Sen. Justin Wayne, said a grand jury should be called to decide any charges.

“If [Kleine] believes there was self-defense, if he believes one way or another, that is not for me or Mr. Kleine to decide, but a jury of peers,” Wayne told reporters. 

Scurlock’s father said he expects more video of the shooting will emerge ― something that Kleine said his office is eager to see if it does.

“If there is any other evidence that people are aware of, other videos, other witnesses, anything else that would guide us or help us in the decision-making process, we would still like that to come forward,” the county attorney said.

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