An Oregon man who had been accused of manslaughter by a grand jury in what appeared to be a self-defense case has committed suicide, according to his attorney.
Jake Gardner was accused of first-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of James Scurlock following an incident that took place earlier this year at a Black Lives Matter riot in Omaha, Nebraska. Gardner was also accused of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, attempted first-degree assault, and making terroristic threats.
A warrant had been approved for his arrest, and his lawyer, Stu Dornan, said he had planned to turn himself in on September 20.
“That night down in the Old Market was a crossroads of where anger and fear met,” Dornan said during a press conference. “And unfortunately, violence ensued, and two young men… have lost their lives.”
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Dornan said his client was a military veteran who served two tours in Iraq. He suffered from traumatic brain injuries, and he felt like he was “back in the warzone” the night he is accused of killing Scurlock.
“He told us that he felt that he was in the war zone that night outside of his bar with violence, the tear gas, and the mass confusion,” Dornan explained.
The Hillsboro Police Department said in a press release that they found Gardner’s body around 12:20 pm outside a medical clinic in Hillsboro, Oregon. Gardner had been in Oregon due to death threats he’d received in Omaha, but planned to return to Nebraska to face charges, Dornan said.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine had initially decided not to bring charges against Gardner. Video from the incident appeared to show Gardner being attacked as he tried to defend his bar against rioters and looters.
Gardner said that Scurlock jumped on his back and put him in a chokehold, which prompted Gardner to shoot him.
After receiving complaints from citizens, Klein decided to appoint special prosecutor Frederick Franklin III and form a grand jury.
Franklin said during a press conference that the grand jurors had access to evidence, including video footage and information from Gardner’s phone, that prompted them to issue an indictment.
“[The grand jury] had much more information available to them than [Kleine] had at the time that the original decision was made,” Franklin said. “That evidence can be reasonably construed as an intent to use a firearm for purposes of killing someone.”
Hillsboro police say Gardner’s death is still under investigation and have not released additional details.