A handful of grainy and graphic videos led Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine to conclude that a white bar owner acted in self-defense when he shot and killed a 22-year-old black Omaha man on Saturday night.
As a result, Jake Gardner, owner of the side-by-side Gatsby and Hive bars downtown, will not face charges in the death of James Scurlock, who previously lived in Norfolk and had served time in prison for burglary.
A surveillance video from Gardner’s bars, played Monday at a press conference, shows a group of young people, including Scurlock, approaching Gardner.
Walking backward, Gardner lifts his shirt to show a handgun, then pulls it to his side and continues backing up. Two people from Scurlock’s group — a man and a woman — tackle Gardner, who ends up on his back in a puddle in the street.
He fires twice into the air — he characterized them as warning shots in an interview with Omaha police. The two people run away from him.
Four seconds after that, Scurlock rushes from the sidewalk and dives on Gardner. Kleine said Scurlock was on Gardner’s back and had his arm around the bar owner’s neck. Gardner could be heard on another bystander’s video hollering, “Get off me, get off me.”
His right arm pinned, Kleine said, Gardner switched the gun to his left hand and fired over his shoulder. The bullet hit Scurlock in the shoulder-neck area, killing him.
Under Nebraska law, a person can be justified in killing another if he has a reasonable belief that deadly force is needed to protect himself or others. People are not allowed to use deadly force to protect property.
Scurlock has a connection to Norfolk. In 2015, when he was 17, Scurlock was sentenced to 3-5 years in prison for burglary with credit for 296 days served. According to court records, he and three others broke into a Norfolk residence in December 2014 and demanded drugs and money from the residents of the home at gunpoint.
Scurlock was a runaway from Omaha to Norfolk at the time. He originally was charged with robbery and use of a firearm to commit a felony. The case was tried in adult court.
He was released from the Nebraska Department of Corrections on Aug. 12, 2016. He had been there since Sept. 22, 2015.