Duringin Omaha, Nebraska over the weekend, a black activist was shot and killed by a white bar owner after a fight broke out. The county attorney said the shooter will not face charges because he was "defending himself."
James Scurlock, 22, was killed by Jacob Gardner, the owner of the Hive Bar and Gatsby Bar in Omaha's Old Market neighborhood around midnight Saturday in the midst of protests against police brutality and George Floyd's death.
The Douglas County Attorney's Office determined Gardner acted in self-defense after interviewing the shooter and reviewing videos of the incident.
"There was a consensus... that the actions of the shooter were justified," County Attorney Don Kleine said during a briefing Monday. "There wasn't any big disagreement about what happened here."
According to prosecutors, the incident followed an altercation involving Gardner's father, who pushed several protesters when asking them to leave the bar.
A grainy surveillance video of the shooting, played during the briefing, shows that Gardner backed up and pointed a gun after two people tackled him in the street. He initially fired two shots into the air that did not hit anyone.
After Scurlock jumped on his back, Gardner can be heard saying "get off me" many times before fatally shooting Scurlock once in the clavicle, Kleine said. Scurlock was taken to a local hospital where he died from his injuries.
"Mr. Gardner, as we know now, has said, 'I did what I did to defend myself,' and we find that we can't disprove that from the evidence that we have," Kleine said. In response to outrage on social media, Kleine added that there was not any "racial tone" to the conversations between Scurlock and Gardner.
Gardner was taken into police custody and released Sunday. Prosecutors say he has an expired concealed carry permit.
Following the shooting, officials imposed a curfew on Omaha, and National Guard troops were mobilized to help local police. Tear gas was again used to disperse a crowd of protesters after curfew Sunday night, despite few problems with vandalism and violence, according to The Associated Press.
During a press conference Monday, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts urged protesters to remain peaceful and voiced his support for Kleine. "If in his judgment at this time, there is not the evidence to bring charges, I believe him," he said of Kleine's decision.
Nebraska State Senator Justin Wayne, speaking on behalf of the Scurlock family, condemned the decision Monday. He said they are continuing to explore "all legal options."
"In this community, we prosecute black and brown individuals a lot more for things like we just watched," Wayne said, referring to the surveillance footage. "It's easy to talk to someone when they're alive. It's easy to get their version of the story when they can talk. We don't know what James would've said."
Citing the state's self-defense law, Wayne tweeted, "NONE of these circumstances were present. NONE. The State of Nebraska does NOT allow you to use deadly force to defend property. Further it is NOT a valid defense if you could have retreated."
"I honestly feel that if Mr. Gardner's dad would've kept his hands to himself, the incident would've never happened in the beginning," Scurlock's father, James Scurlock II, told CBS News affiliate KMTV. "Once again I ask that we investigate this and I ask my people to stand by me strong but do it peacefully."
In an interview on Tuesday with KMTV, Scurlock's mother said she feels broken over the death of her son, who she called "JuJu."
"He was vivacious. He lived life to the fullest. He was adventurous, he had such a big heart and was a momma's boy," she said.
Scurlock's brother, Nicholas Harden, said the loss is especially devastating because Scurlock had a newborn daughter.
"He has a heart of gold and anybody can tell you that," Harden said. "He was trying to protect people's lives. He was a hero. He has a daughter that is not even one and he changed his life around. He was settling down."
The family called for further investigation in the case and also urged protesters to remain peaceful, saying they don't want Scurlock's name to be used as a justification for violence.
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