|Part of George Floyd protests|
|Date||May 30, 2020|
|Location||Omaha, Nebraska, United States|
Location of Omaha, where the incident took place, in Douglas County and in the state of Nebraska.
On Saturday, May 30, 2020, James Scurlock, a 22-year-old African-American man, was fatally shot by a white bar owner, Jacob Gardner. The shooting took place during the George Floyd protests in the Old Market area of Omaha, Nebraska. Gardner was released from police custody after the county attorney concluded that he had acted in self-defense against Scurlock, who was holding Gardner in a chokehold or a headlock at the time that the shot was fired. This decision proved controversial and has been described as exacerbating tensions in the United States, and the case was referred to a grand jury for review.
During the protest, windows were broken out at various businesses on the corner of 12th and Harney Streets, including at the bar of Jacob Gardner. Jacob and his father, David Gardner, went outside the bar, and David pushed two protesters when telling them to leave.
After getting pushed himself, David was punched by one man hard enough to land on his back several feet away. A verbal altercation between Jacob and a group of protesters he believed had pushed his father ensued. Jacob positioned himself in the midst of the protestors. Jacob lifted his shirt, making it known he was carrying a concealed handgun in his waistband. He held the weapon at his side in his right hand, and as he was backing up towards his bar he was tackled to the ground by two protesters. Jacob fired two shots in the air (which he would later describe as warning shots to the police), and his two attackers fled. It was then that Scurlock jumped on Jacob's back as he was getting up and held him on the ground in a chokehold or a headlock. After both had struggled for around 20 seconds, with Jacob repeatedly shouting "get off me", Jacob fired a third shot behind his back, striking Scurlock in his clavicle. Scurlock was taken to Nebraska Medicine, but died from his injuries.
By Saturday night, Jacob Gardner was held in police custody at the Omaha Police Department headquarters while an investigation was conducted. He was released late Sunday night and was not booked into jail while he was in police custody. Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine reviewed the evidence, including interviews and witnesses. At a press conference on Monday, June 1, Kleine announced that no charges would be filed against Gardner at that time. Kleine described what occurred in the incident, showed copies of video evidence for the audience, narrating what took place, and explained the conclusion that Gardner had acted in self-defense. Prosecutors said Gardner had once held an active Nebraska Concealed Handgun Permit, but that it had expired by the time of the shooting.
The Scurlock family's attorney and Nebraska State Senator, Justin Wayne, asked Kleine to send the case to a grand jury. He explained Gardner should face other charges, such as manslaughter, a concealed carry permit violation, or for firing gunshots within the Omaha city limits.
On June 3, 2020, Kleine called a grand jury with a special prosecutor to review the case. He met with Omaha Councilperson Ben Gray and Douglas County Commissioner Chris Rodgers to consider involving the United States Department of Justice. On June 8, Frederick D. Franklin, an African American federal prosecutor, was appointed to lead the grand jury investigation.
The death was reported internationally as exacerbating tensions in the United States. On May 31, there was a Black Lives Matter and George Floyd protest in Kearney, Nebraska, that also included demonstrations in Scurlock's name. Signs included slogans like "Justice for James." It started at the Museum of Nebraska Art and continued to the intersection of Second Avenue and 25th Street.
On June 1, 2020, approximately 300 protesters demonstrated in Omaha. Many chanted "What about James?" while they were pelted by pepper spray. 80 protesters were arrested. Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts apologized to the black community after saying "you guys" in a discussion with black leaders.
On June 5, 2020, hundreds of demonstrators gathered in memory of Scurlock and to protest racism and racial inequality. They began at Memorial Park and marched across the Dodge Street Pedestrian Bridge to Elmwood Park. Omaha Councilperson Pete Festersen and Scurlock's family attended the protest.
On June 5, 2020, local radio station KFAB posted a video showing Scurlock inside of Old Market businesses vandalizing them just prior to the incident, and interviewed Don Kleine on why his office chose not to release the video.
Videos of the incident were posted on social media. Scurlock's father, James Scurlock II, stated that he wanted justice. He said he did not want protesters to loot or commit acts of violence in Scurlock's name. The family's attorney Justin Wayne said, "In this community, we prosecute black and brown individuals a lot more for things like we just watched," in reference to the video of the incident shown at the press conference. Governor Pete Ricketts stated that "the loss of anybody's life is a tragedy, certainly a personal tragedy for the family and a tragedy for the community." He said he supported Kleine's decision to not press charges. He suggested the public watch the incident for themselves. Ricketts called for peaceful protests.
The Miami Herald reported that Nebraska State Senator Megan Hunt tweeted: "Don Kleine and Douglas County have made a huge mistake. James Scurlock was murdered, and his murderer should be put on trial. With this decision, our justice process never even had a chance to work." On June 1, 2020, the rock band 311 and its vocalist Nick Hexum posted on social media that Scurlock was shot dead by a fan of their group, and that they did not condone the violence shown in the shooting. On June 4, 2020, a spray painted mural of Scurlock was completed in Omaha near 24th and Camden. It was created by a collaboration of over 100 artists. Another mural was created at 16th and Farnam.
The owner of the building in which the bar was located evicted Gardner shortly after the incident.