A white Nebraska bar owner charged with manslaughter over the shooting of a black man during a chaotic night of George Floyd protests in May has been found dead from suicide.
Jake Gardner, an ex-Marine, was indicted by a grand jury for fatally shooting 22-year-old James Scurlock in Omaha on May 30.
On Friday, a judge signed paperwork to issue an arrest warrant for Gardner.
He was supposed to turn himself in on Sunday – the day he was found dead near Portland, Oregon.
Gardner shot himself after authorities in Hillsboro, Oregon, received a call of a suicidal party, two law enforcement sources told the Omaha World-Herald.
The death happened this weekend, though Hillsboro police would not confirm the death or the time it happened.
Stu Dornan, Gardner’s attorney, confirmed his suicide, saying that his client – who he said had a traumatic brain injury and PTSD from his military days – would have been proved innocent.
‘This is a sad day,’ said Dornan on Sunday evening. ‘It did not have to happen.’
Dornan said it was time to end ‘trial by media’, and said it was ‘a clear case of self defense’.
He added: ‘He was deathly afraid of coming back here, because he did not feel he could get a fair trial. And who would blame him?’
Dornan said: ‘I’m a fan of the constitution. I’m a fan of self defense. I am angry at the rush to judgement, and at not having the opportunity to defend a man who had acted in self defense three times, and was found to have acted in self defense.
‘Yes, I am angry he didn’t have his opportunity for a fair trial, and a fair hearing.’
Gardner had been in northern California during the wildfires, and needed to be evacuated with other people.
Dornan said they were trying to arrange his reporting to Omaha authorities in the safest way possible.
‘When you throw in COVID, with respect to that danger and risk, and that law enforcement itself – it is always much easier to have someone turn themselves in.
‘This had exceptional circumstances.
‘This doesn’t take away from the death of Mr Scurlock. This is a terrible tragedy, for everyone involved.’
Dornan’s partner, Tom Monaghan, said that Gardner had already been found guilty by the town of Omaha.
‘We need to stop the violence. What happened in Minnesota should not have caused a riot in Omaha,’ he said.
‘A peaceful demonstration did not need to lead to violence and damage to property. But it did.’
Monaghan said they believed they could have proved Gardner was not guilty.
‘Jake was worried that he was going to get shot on the way here; that some of those folks who gave him death threats on his phone would carry through with them. He felt the threats were probably not credible, but you never know. I didn’t think they were credible enough to need to see him.
‘He became particularly worried when it was announced there was an arrest warrant. I can guarantee, there was not.’
Monaghan said that instead of an arrest warrant there was ‘an agreement to self-report’.
Gardner did not leave a suicide note.
Gardner, 38, was also facing charges of attempted first-degree assault, threats and using a weapon while committing a felony.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine had initially declined to file charges against Gardner, saying he had reviewed witness statements and video and believed the bar owner acted in self-defense.
Kleine, who was slammed for overlooking Gardner’s alleged racist history, asked the grand jury to review the case after he was heavily criticized.