(Reuters) - A white bar owner charged last week in the May shooting death of a Black man during a night of civil unrest in Omaha, Nebraska, has taken his own life in Oregon, where he had been staying after the incident, his attorneys said.
Lawyers for Jacob Gardner, 38, had expected him to return to Omaha after a grand jury returned a four-count indictment on Sept. 15. The development was unexpected after prosecutors initially decided against bringing charges, Stu Dornan, one of Gardner’s attorneys, said on Sunday.
“He was really shook up, because the grand jury indictment was a shock to him, it was a shock to us and it was a shock to many people,” Dornan told reporters.
Police in Hillsboro, Oregon, a suburb just west of Portland, confirmed in a statement that Gardner’s body was found on Sunday outside a medical clinic, but did not immediately classify it as a suicide.
Gardner’s lawyers said he fled to Northern California and later Oregon on their advice due to death threats on social media after Douglas County District Attorney Don Kleine declined to charge him in the death of 22-year-old James Scurlock.
Grainy video taken outside Gardner’s bar shows two men in an altercation during sometimes violent protests on the night of May 30 that swept through Omaha and other U.S. cities following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
An investigation into Scurlock’s death led to a grand jury charging Gardner with manslaughter, use of a deadly weapon, attempted assault and terroristic threats.
Special prosecutor Frederick Franklin told reporters much of the evidence that led to the indictment came from Gardner’s cellphone, Facebook messages and video from inside the bar.
Gardner’s attorneys, noting that he was an Iraq war veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, said they were confident he would have been acquitted.
Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot
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