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Kleine appears to criticize Eastman's comments on slaying; she says his remarks are a 'distraction'

Kleine appears to criticize Eastman's comments on slaying; she says his remarks are a 'distraction'

Protest Damage (copy)

Police on Sunday surround The Hive, where 22-year-old James Scurlock was shot and killed Saturday night by bar owner Jake Gardner.

WASHINGTON — Omaha congressional candidate Kara Eastman took to Twitter on Sunday morning to express dismay over the previous night’s fatal shooting of a 22-year-old black Omaha man by a white bar owner.

But her choice of words in describing the shooting of James Scurlock drew a rebuke Monday afternoon from Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine, a fellow Democrat.

Eastman is running against Republican incumbent Rep. Don Bacon once again this cycle after narrowly losing to him in 2018.

In her Sunday tweets, Eastman wrote that she stands with those protesting police brutality and systemic racism.

Kara Eastman mug (copy)

Kara Eastman

“I’m also deeply saddened by the senseless violence we saw in our city last night that resulted in the cold-blooded murder of a young black man,” Eastman wrote. “Many of my friends’ businesses were vandalized in the heart of our city. While this is terrible, buildings and storefronts can be repaired and restored, but human life cannot.”

Kleine announced at a Monday press conference that he would not be charging the bar owner, Jake Gardner, and described the shooting as self-defense.

Misinformation about the incident had been spread across social media, he said. Although he didn’t call Eastman out by name, he did reference her exact phrasing.

“I’ve seen social media put out, even by, you know, politicians, people running for Congress, calling the event a ‘cold-blooded murder,’ ” Kleine said.

Don Kleine mug

Don Kleine

He said it is “irresponsible” and “reckless” and “dangerous to our community” to make such statements without being privy to details of the investigation.

“Because there’s people who see these kinds of things that emanate from people who they think might know something about the case, and it’s not accurate, it’s not true,” Kleine said.

In a statement provided to The World-Herald, Eastman said the story should be about Scurlock and his grieving family. She said she’s grateful that more than $100,000 has been raised from the community to help them.

“I don’t agree with the prosecutor’s decision to not pursue charges against the man who killed him,” Eastman said. ”We think any petty political statement is a distraction from the real issue, which is justice for James Scurlock. We have no idea why Mr. Kleine decided to make the press conference political.”

20181102_new_closingarguments (copy) Don Bacon mug

Don Bacon

Bacon said he agreed that Eastman’s statements were irresponsible. As for the decision to not bring charges, Bacon said he thought that Kleine did the best he could with the information he had.

“I thought he did a good job at it,” Bacon said. “Unfortunately, it’s a terrible situation.”

Photos: Fourth day of protests in Omaha after James Scurlock’s shooter not charged

Omaha World-Herald: Afternoon Update

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Reporter - Politics/Washington D.C.

Joseph Morton is The World-Herald Washington Bureau Chief. Morton joined The World-Herald in 1999 and has been reporting from Washington for the newspaper since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @MortonOWH.

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