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- U.S.LA Times
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The activity occurred blocks from peaceful protests.
- U.S.The Daily Beast
OMAHA—Prosecutors said Monday they will not charge the white Omaha bar owner who fatally shot a black protester this weekend after reviewing video of the incident and deeming it an act of self-defense.“The actions of the shooter, the bar owner, were justified,” Douglas County Attorney Donald Kleine said at a press conference.“This decision may not be popular,” he said, referring to calls for the bar owner, Jake Gardner, to be charged with murder in the death of James Scurlock, 22.In fact, Omaha officials, apparently fearing the decision would fuel further unrest, counseled businesses to close up early. And protesters began gravitating to the Old Market area where Scurlock had been killed.“We will not let others antagonize us or scare us. We’re also not going to accept people who degrade us as a people,” Tyreese Johnson, 20, told The Daily Beast.At the press conference, Kleine played several video clips of a minute-long confrontation that unfolded Saturday night between Gardner, the owner of The Hive and The Gatsby nightspots, and a small group of young people.Black Protester Shot to Death Outside Omaha BarThe footage showed Gardner, a 38-year-old ex-Marine, and his 68-year-old father standing outside The Gatsby, where windows had been broken as protests stemming from the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis devolved into vandalism.The father walked down the street to confront the young black men, shoved one of them, and then got “decked” and pushed back about 10 feet, Kleine said, in narrating the video.The younger Gardner then confronted the group and showed that he was carrying a gun, Kleine said. Suddenly, the video shows, two of the young people charged at Gardner and knocked him into a puddle on the street—at which point he fired two shots he claimed were warnings.The duo ran off, and then “James Scurlock jumps on top on him,” Kleine said. Gardner “fired over his back” and hit Scurlock in the clavicle, killing him.Kleine said Gardner gave police and prosecutors his version of events: “He begged and pleaded for this person to get off. This person was trying to get at his gun.”“He says, I was in fear for my life so I fired the shot,” the prosecutor added.Curfews and Soldiers Can’t Contain the Nation’s ChaosState Sen. Justin Wayne, speaking for the Scurlock family, said a grand jury and not the county attorney should be deciding if Gardner committed a crime.“In this community, we prosecute black and brown individuals a lot more for things like we just watched,” he said—noting that Kleine acknowledged Gardner’s permit for a concealed weapon was expired but that he would not be charged in connection with that.“We watched a video where anybody else would have gotten charged with something,” he said.Even before showing the videos, Kleine had castigated local politicians for calling it a “cold-blooded murder” and said reports on social media that racial slurs were used were not supported by the video or by testimony from Scurlock’s friend and a protester.He also said that a few minutes before the killing, Scurlock was caught on video vandalizing the lobby of a building down the street, “but I don’t think that’s relevant at this time.”Scurlock had a criminal record—but that almost certainly would not have been known to Gardner. It included a one-day jail sentence for misdemeanor assault in 2019 and 90-day sentence for misdemeanor domestic assault in in February. A 2014 armed robbery charge was downgraded to burglary, public records show.And Gardner has been arrested on criminal charges at least four times, public records show.In 2013, police picked him up on assault and battery charges, and also hit him with a count of failing to tell an officer he had a concealed handgun. The gun charge was dismissed in a plea deal that saw him pay $200 in fines.In 2011, after being nabbed for alleged reckless driving, he was also charged with carrying a concealed weapon, which was downgraded to disturbing the peace in a plea deal that resulted in a $200 fine.Gardner’s record also includes two arrests from 1998 and 1999, one for reckless driving and one for third-degree assault, and a number of traffic offenses.Court records that would provide details of each arrest were not available. Gardner’s family has declined to comment, and refused to provide The Daily Beast with the name of his attorney.Gardner is a self-described Libertarian who had been a source controversy in Omaha before last weekend.In 2016, he caused a furor when he wrote on Facebook that transgender women should have had their “appendage” removed if they want to use female 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.”The Hive had also been the target of several complaints on social media that it discriminated against black patrons, with one person tweeting that Gardner personally refused entry to her black husband while letting her white brother go in.Last year, the State Liquor Authority issued a warning to Gardner for failing to cooperate with police who were investigating a possible assault on site. He was up front about his political and philosophical views. In 2017, while in Washington to attend President Trump’s inauguration, he was interviewed about the Women’s March then underway.“Everyone has a right to speak their mind,” he said, wearing a Trump sweatshirt, with his dog Bron in a MAGA vest. “Everyone loves the dog until they see the vest,” he said of the marchers. He posted a photo in 2017 of himself and Bron posing with Donald Trump Jr. with the caption: “Here’s a guy who returns my emails 100 percent of the time, every time. FAKENEWS BRONANDDON.”With reporting by William BreddermanRead more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.