Parents of U.S. Marine Corps veteran and Omaha bar owner Jake Gardner have filed a lawsuit against a Douglas County attorney and the special prosecutor who branded their son racist before Gardner committed suicide.
Gardner fatally shot an anti-police rioter, 22-year-old James Scurlock, during a struggle outside of his bar last May.
Gardner was initially cleared of all charges after it was determined that he acted in self-defense. However, following unrest largely because of the races of Scurlock, who is black, and Gardner, who is white, the DA appointed special prosecutor Fred Franklin and a grand jury, hoping “it would restore public faith in the justice system,” NPR reported.
Franklin, who said he initially thought Gardner acted in self-defense, agreed with the grand jury and announced in September that Gardner was indicted on charges of manslaughter, attempted first-degree assault, terroristic threats, and use of a firearm in connection with a felony.
One week later, Gardner committed suicide.
The suit, filed Monday by Gardner’s parents, David and Glenda Sue Gardner, claims Franklin and Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine violated their son’s Sixth and 14th Amendment rights. The Omaha World-Herald reported on the allegations outlined in the lawsuit:
The suit alleges Franklin conspired with Kleine and two retired Omaha police detectives who were on Franklin’s team to make false and misleading statements to the news media. Franklin’s statements, the suit says, “included implications that Mr. Gardner was a racist” and “also falsely stated that it was Mr. Gardner’s own words that showed his intent to kill.”
The statements, which the lawsuit contends impacted Gardner’s right to a fair trial, “caused Mr. Gardner to lose all faith in the justice system and become paranoid and afraid for his life,” the lawsuit states. “As a result of this extreme emotional distress, Mr. Gardner committed suicide on Sept. 20, 2020.”
As noted by The Daily Wire back in September, Gardner’s attorneys at the time, Stu Dornan and Tom Monaghan, according to the Omaha World-Herald, said their client’s suicide stemmed from “a cocktail of behavioral health problems stemming from head trauma he experienced during military service, the belief that people were out to kill him, and an ‘incessant rush to judgment’ by social media jockeys.”
They also disclosed that Gardner was receiving “death threats.”
“Bottom line, Dornan and Monaghan said, Gardner had lost his bars (a landlord ended his lease after the shooting), his home, his livelihood,” the report said. “And he was about to lose his freedom. Add in behavioral health concerns, Dornan said, and suicide was not a surprise, even though his attorneys fully expected him to turn himself in Sunday night.”
“I had the opportunity to talk with Mr. Gardner before his return, and he was really shook up,” Dornan said. “The grand jury indictment was a shock to him, it was a shock to us, it was a shock to many people.”
Klein told the Omaha World-Herald this week in reaction to the suit, “The allegations in my opinion are unfounded.”