The Tragedy of Jake Gardner

With the Kyle Rittenhouse trial approaching, it's worth revisiting another all but forgotten incident in which the media and courts lynched a man who defended himself during last year's BLM riots.

Jake Gardner/Youtube

The phone rang and rang until a voice spoke out amid the din of chaos all around. “911: Do you need police, fire or medical?” Jake Gardner watched on the other end of the line as vandals shattered the windows of his bar in Omaha, Nebraska, on May 30, 2020. The city had lost its mind that night when Black Lives Matter descended upon it. 

A Marine veteran, Gardner carried a weapon but chose to call the police first rather than confront the mob himself. Help never came. Rioters and looters kept law enforcement preoccupied, causing millions of dollars in damage throughout the area. Two officers sustained injuries the night before. Half an hour after he called the police, Gardner and his father, David Gardner, met agitators outside the bar. 

Footage of the incident shows rioters pushed David Gardner to the ground. Jake Gardner checked on his father and then attempted to de-escalate the situation with a crowd of mostly black men. “He about to jaw this nigga,” someone said, then egged others on against Gardner. “Black Lives Matter, hey, Black Lives Matter,” a man in the crowd shouted, to which the veteran responded, “I agree, I totally agree, I just don’t understand what the disconnect is . . .” He was cut off when a different black man advanced aggressively from the group.

Gardner attempted to retreat, walking backward away from the crowd and his incoming assailant, warning everyone to keep their distance. They mocked Gardner until he flashed a handgun tucked into his waistband as a warning, still walking backward. Then someone grabbed him from behind and slammed Gardner into a pool of water on the street. Gardner fired two warning shots and tried to stand up—then a black man named James Scurlock jumped on his back and knocked him down again. Gardner shouted at Scurlock repeatedly to get off. When that failed, he fired a round over his shoulder, fatally wounding Scurlock.

On June 1, Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine initially declined to file charges against Gardner. After reviewing video and witness statements, Kleine concluded that he had acted in self-defense against an aggressive assailant. But outrage would buck the system.

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