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Jake Gardner, Man Charged with Manslaughter for Killing Black Protester, Dies by Suicide Before Being Taken Into Police Custody

The body of Jacob Gardner, the 38-year-old white bar owner charged with manslaughter in the May killing of a 22-year old Black protester, was found in Portland, Oregon, on Sunday, Sept. 20, Gardner’s attorney has confirmed.

On Sept. 15, Gardner was indicted for manslaughter by a grand jury for killing James Scurlock outside of the Gatsby Bar in Omaha, Nebraska, on May 30.

On Friday, a warrant was approved for his arrest, but only the affidavit portion was signed, and not the actual warrant. Gardner, who shot himself outside of a medical clinic on Sunday, was scheduled to return to Omaha to surrender to police that evening.

Oregon police released a statement, saying: “At about 12:20 p.m., Hillsboro Police Department officers responded to the 300 block of Southeast Ninth Avenue after a body was found outside a medical clinic. They discovered 38-year-old Jacob Gardner of Omaha, Nebraska, dead.”

Jake Gardner (Photo: Lincoln Star News/Twitter)

The jury, which rejected Gardner’s self-defense claim, also indicted the bar owner on three other felony charges, including attempted first-degree assault, making terroristic threats and weapon use.

The delay in bringing Gardner into police custody has been met with criticism. Justin Wayne, the Scurlock family attorney, questioned the seemingly preferential treatment Gardner received in a series of now-deleted tweets.

“… ATTORNEYS: Next time you have a client with a warrant say we want the ‘Jake Treatment’ ” he wrote in one of the tweets.

“Give us a few days to get our affairs in order and we will let you know when we surrender. Just say, ‘hey, we will get back to you on that … i.e. the Jake Treatment,’ ” he said in another.

Because Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine agreed with Gardner’s self-defense claim, no charges were initially brought against him. However, amid mounting pressure, Kleine requested that a grand jury review the case.

Special prosecutor Fred Franklin staunchly rejected the self-defense narrative, saying: “I can tell you that there is evidence that undermines [claims of self-defense], and that evidence comes primarily from Jake Gardner himself.”

The shooting occurred following an altercation outside Gardner’s Gatsby Bar during a Black Lives Matter protest. After someone in the crowd pushed Gardner’s 69-year-old father, and Scurlock and his friend stepped closer to him, Gardner lifted up his shirt to flash a gun. When two protesters jumped on Gardner, knocking him to the ground, he fired two shots. After Scurlock jumped on Gardner’s back, he fired a fatal shot over his shoulder, killing the 22-year-old protester.

James Scurlock (Photo: KMTV News YouTube screenshot)

A former marine, Gardner had posted to Facebook prior to the encounter, writing that he planned “to pull military-style firewatch” at his bar.

Gardner’s attorney Stu Dornan said the marine suffered traumatic brain injuries while on several tours in Iraq, and that “the grand jury indictment was a shock to him. He was really shook up.”

“It’s stressful. I’m more anxious now than when I was flying to Iraq. I was in from the end of 2000 til the end of 2004. All trained up by 9/11. I was there in 2003 during the invasion and in Haiti in 2004 to break up the civil unrest,” Gardner said to KETV NewsWatch 7 before the indictment was announced.

Gardner had reportedly left Omaha for Portland because he had received death threats and feared for his life in the wake of the Scurlock shooting. He was afraid to return to Omaha and hired a bodyguard because he feared he would be shot.

“Jake was worried he was going to get shot on the way here, that some of those folks [who] gave him death threats…would carry through with them,” a second attorney Tim Monaghan said.

Dornan said he was frustrated Gardner didn’t have the “opportunity for a fair trial,” and revealed that new case evidence showed that Gardner thought a bullet had shattered the glass of the window of his bar, and that people were climbing inside prior to the shooting.

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