The Nebraska bar owner who fatally shot a George Floyd protester in May was found dead of an apparent suicide on Sunday — less than a week after he was indicted on manslaughter charges, police said.
The body of Jake Gardner, 38, of Omaha, was discovered around 12:20 p.m. outside a medical clinic in Hillsboro, Oregon, some 20 miles west of Portland, cops said. Gardner left Nebraska for the West Coast shortly after the shooting amid death threats, his lawyer said.
A grand jury in Douglas County brought charges against Gardner last week in the May 30 shooting of 22-year-old James Scurlock during a night of chaotic protests in Omaha.
Gardner’s attorney, Stu Dornan, told local outlet KETV his client was set to return to Omaha, apparently to turn himself in on Sunday evening.
Gardner, a Marine veteran, claimed he shot Scurlock in self defense — and a local prosecutor initially said the evidence supported that scenario and declined to prosecute.
But Special Prosecutor Frederick Franklin said Tuesday that the grand jury had reviewed additional information, including from Gardner’s phone and his Facebook Messenger account, along with video, that “was consistent with there being an intentional killing.”
A judge on Friday had signed paperwork to issue an arrest warrant for Gardner, according to the Omaha World-Herald. He faced up to 95 years in prison if convicted.
His attorney maintained that Gardner, who served two tours in Iraq and suffered traumatic brain injuries, was ailing from PTSD at the time of the shooting and acted in self-defense.
Gardner “was really shook up,” by the indictment but was intending to return to Omaha to face the charges, Dornan told KETV.
Hillsboro Police did not immediately provide a cause of death, but indicated it had been suicide. Local outlets, citing law enforcement sources, said Gardner shot himself and did not leave a note.
“I’m angry he didn’t have the opportunity for a fair trial, for a fair hearing,” his lawyer said.