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Jake Gardner's family wants grand jury transcript released, says prosecutor had an agenda
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Jake Gardner's family wants grand jury transcript released, says prosecutor had an agenda

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Fred Franklin

Special prosecutor Fred Franklin

Special prosecutor Fred Franklin gives an update on the indictment of Jake Gardner after Gardner was found dead by suicide over the weekend. Gardner, a white bar owner, was charged with manslaughter and three other felonies by a grand jury following the May 30 fatal shooting of James Scurlock, a 22-year-old Black man.

The family of Jake Gardner has called for the release of the transcript of the grand jury investigation that resulted in Gardner’s indictment in the May 30 shooting death of James Scurlock.

In a statement released Thursday, Gardner’s family disputed the indictment and statements by special prosecutor Fred Franklin, who led the grand jury probe.

Jake Gardner (web)

Jake Gardner

Gardner, 38, a downtown bar owner, killed Scurlock, 22, after Scurlock jumped on his back while Gardner held a handgun. Scurlock was downtown during protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

The release of the transcript is unlikely. Court officials have said they are not allowed to release the transcript because of the law covering grand juries.

A recent revision to state law allows officials to release a grand jury transcript and exhibits only in cases in which a grand jury reviewed the death of a person in police custody and returned no indictments.

The response from Gardner’s family comes after Franklin announced Tuesday that he had received the death certificate for Gardner, who killed himself in Oregon on Sept. 20 after the indictment.

Both the death certificate and the local police reports specify suicide by gunshot as the cause of death, Franklin said. With the filing of the death certificate, Douglas County District Judge James Gleason dismissed the grand jury’s charges against Gardner.

Franklin defended his handling of the case, outlining his view of why the 16 grand jurors arrived at the charges they did: manslaughter, weapon use, attempted first-degree assault and making terroristic threats.

Gardner’s attorney Stu Dornan couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

The Gardner family’s statement, which was sent to KETV, takes issue with Franklin’s comments from earlier this week, arguing that Gardner did not make terroristic threats and that his father, David Gardner, did not commit assault.

“Lightly pushing a rioter and telling them to leave the area after they break more windows is not an assault,” the statement said.

scurlock.jpg (copy) (copy) (copy)

James Scurlock

The confrontation between David Gardner and the protester began when he twice shoved a young man who was filming someone about to vandalize another business, leading to the deadly confrontation involving the Gardners, Scurlock and his friend Tucker Randall, who had shoved David Gardner to the ground.

The family wrote that David Gardner, 69, weighed 140 pounds at the time of the fatal encounter and was undergoing a second round of chemotherapy.

That evening, the Gardners and others gathered with weapons inside The Hive, one of Jake Gardner’s two adjacent bars in the Old Market. Franklin suggested that they were hoping that looters would break into the bars so they could “light them up.”

The Gardner family disputes that Gardner used that phrase.

During the confrontation outside the bar, Gardner fired what he called two warning shots. Franklin disputed the notion that the shots were warning shots — and the grand jury charged Gardner with attempted first-degree assault.

The family’s statement said Gardner fired only one warning shot.

“He was armed with a handgun, and a shotgun containing non lethal ammunition as was his right” under the law, the statement said.

Gardner’s business was his life and livelihood, his family said.

“Any nightclub or bar owner knows that violence is horrible for business,” they wrote. “He never would have destroyed that reputation by committing an act of violence except as an absolute last resort. Jake Gardner acted appropriately to defend his own life.”

The family’s statement alleges that Franklin had an agenda.

“His true motives may never be known,” they wrote. “Racism, Political ambitions, taking down a Trump supporter? Only Franklin knows the true motive for the hatred in his heart.”

The family ended its four-page statement with the words “Semper Fi,” a Latin phrase that means “always faithful” or “always loyal.”

It is the motto of the Marine Corps. Gardner was a former Marine.

World-Herald staff writer Todd Cooper contributed to this report.

Videos: Grand jury delivers indictments in James Scurlock shooting

A grand jury returned four indictments against Jake Gardner including manslaughter

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Special Prosecutor Fred Franklin announces the grand jury decision of the Jake Gardner shooting and killing of James Scurlock at the Omaha Cit…

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Justin Wayne speaks on behalf of Scurlock family after a grand jury decided on four indictments against Jake Gardner.

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A grand jury returned four indictments against Jake Gardner including manslaughter

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A grand jury returned four indictments including manslaughter.

jwade@owh.com, 402-444-1067

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Jessica Wade covers breaking news, crime and the Omaha zoo. Follow her on Twitter @Jess_Wade_OWH. Phone: 402-444-1067

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