James Scurlock case: Omaha braces for grand jury decision

An increased police presence is being seen downtown and around the Douglas County Courthouse on Monday regarding the case of James Scurlock's shooting death.
Published: Sep. 14, 2020 at 6:44 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 15, 2020 at 4:17 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - An increased police presence is being seen downtown and around the Douglas County Courthouse on Monday, in anticipation of the grand jury’s decision in the James Scurlock case.

A decision is expected any day and no one knows whether the jurors will indict the bar owner for murder or manslaughter or something else – or call it “no true bill” which means no indictment.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine initially concluded it was self-defense.

Either way, the courthouse has been a common spot for demonstrations -- protesting for social justice and police reform -- and it seems law enforcement wants to be prepared for all possibilities.

In late May -- 22-year-old James Scurlock, who was black, was in The Old Market with hundreds of others protesting the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Jake Gardner, a white owner of The Hive bar at 12th and Harney Streets, had brought a handgun with him as he watched over his business that night with his father.

There are words exchanged -- and shoves among the crowd -- and at one point, Gardner shows them he has a handgun in his waistband.

When two people jumped on Gardner’s back -- he fired what he told detectives were “two warning shots.”

That’s when James Scurlock jumped on Gardner’s back.

Family and friends believe he was trying to get the gun away from the bar owner.

Gardner told police he feared for his life while in a chokehold and shot Scurlock.

Especially where James Scurlock was killed outside the bar.

Those who own the building still have a note on the window reminding people that Gardner only rented the space -- and is not associated with the address in any way.

Some of the previous protest organizers said in a Facebook post today that they’re “gearing up for disappointment” -- and that “sustained demonstrations are necessary” to be heard to create change.

In response to the police presence downtown -- some people believed it was an obvious sign that law enforcement had been given a heads-up that a decision had been reached -- and that conclusion was shared on social media.

But Omaha police posted on its Facebook page this afternoon: “We do not have any information of any possible or planned civil unrest.”

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