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Manslaughter indictment evokes surprise among Omahans gearing up for different outcome

Manslaughter indictment evokes surprise among Omahans gearing up for different outcome


When the group of about 30 people who had gathered Tuesday on a street corner in Dundee heard that Jake Gardner had been charged, many jumped to their feet and yelled with excitement.

A grand jury had just charged Gardner, 38, with manslaughter and three other felonies in connection with the May 30 death of Omahan James Scurlock, 22, during protests in downtown Omaha.

Bear Alexander said he was shocked and elated by the decision.

An organizer of the proBLAC organization, Alexander said many demonstrations had been planned for Tuesday night. But the with news of the indictment, those plans changed to celebrations.

“We’re going to be celebrating for that first step in justice for our brother,” Alexander said. “Now, I still don’t have that much faith in our system, but they proved me wrong this time, so I can only hope.”

Fellow organizers Peyton Zyla and Markell Riley shared in Alexander’s surprise. All three have helped organize protests in recent months.

“I’m feeling relieved,” Zyla said. “It’s been a long summer. We’ve been in the street, we’ve been organizing, people have been doing canvass efforts. We were out here expecting the worst, and we were ready to mobilize.”

Zyla said he hopes the indictment will lead to a conviction.

Riley called the indictment “a step in the right direction.”

“The next step is taking a breather, we can take a breath and celebrate with one another,” Riley said. “That doesn’t mean the work is done by any means.”

For months, protesters had gathered on street corners, in the streets and in front of the Douglas County Courthouse, chanting the phrase, “Arrest Jake Gardner.”

“Now, it’ll have to be, ‘Convict Jake Gardner,’ ” Alexander said.

Many in the group ended the day with a moment of silence in front of the Hive and Gatsby bars, where Scurlock was shot and killed by Gardner.

Videos: Grand jury delivers indictments in James Scurlock shooting

A grand jury returned four indictments against Jake Gardner including manslaughter, 402-444-1067

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