The surreal and sordid ordeal involving a white Omaha bar owner and a young Black Omaha man ended Sunday with a staggering development.
Jake Gardner — awaiting arrest after a grand jury in Omaha indicted him last week — shot himself outside a medical clinic in suburban Portland, Oregon, two law enforcement officials told The World-Herald. Police in Hillsboro, Oregon, found the 38-year-old former Marine dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound about 12:20 p.m.
Gardner’s attorneys, Stu Dornan and Tom Monaghan, said Gardner shot himself on the day he had said he would surrender in connection with manslaughter and three other felony charges stemming from the May 30 confrontation that led to the death of 22-year-old James Scurlock.
Now, both men are dead. By the same hand.
Sunday, Dornan and Monaghan blamed Gardner’s apparent suicide on a cocktail of behavioral health problems stemming from head trauma he experienced during military service; the belief that people were out to kill him; and an “incessant rush to judgment” by social media jockeys.
In their first public comments since the May 30 shooting, the Omaha attorneys, both former prosecutors, revealed that their client had suffered two traumatic brain injuries while serving two tours in Iraq, injuries that netted him Social Security disability payments. They said the bar owner, who had posted on Facebook the weekend of May 30 that he was going downtown to “pull a military-style firewatch,” felt like he was in a warlike environment during the chaos that engulfed downtown Omaha that night.
Monaghan alleged that after Gardner shot and killed Scurlock, people sent Gardner death threats on social media and by text to Gardner’s personal cellphone, though Monaghan later acknowledged that he didn’t think the threats were credible enough to report to law enforcement.
Dornan said Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine — who defeated Dornan in 2006 to become county attorney — had made the right call in ruling Gardner’s actions justified. Gardner had claimed that Scurlock had him in a chokehold and wouldn’t let go, despite Gardner’s repeated pleas to “get off me.” At the end of the 18-second struggle, Gardner switched the gun to his left hand and fired over his shoulder, killing Scurlock.