Don Kleine, Douglas County Attorney: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Don Kleine

Douglas County Don Kleine has been Douglas County attorney since 2007.

Don Kleine is the Douglas County Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska, who announced on Monday that no charges would be filed against Jake Gardner, a white bar owner who shot and killed James Scurlock, a 22-year-old black man, during protests on Saturday night.

Kleine said Gardner shot Scurlock in self-defense outside the bar he owns, and for that reason, no charges will be pressed.

Here’s what you need to know:


1. Kleine Chose Not to Press Charges Against Gardner Because of Evidence From Video Footage & Witnesses, He Said

Following the incident on Saturday, videos immediately began to circulate on social media. In the video (which will not be shown on Heavy out of respect to the victim), the footage is relatively shaky, but one can see a confrontation taking place between two men, one white and one black, on the sidewalk. Many others can be seen standing around those two, with one person recorded as saying, “This [n-word] got a gun!,” and another person saying, “It’s not worth it [n-word], he’s got a gun.”

Though the shooting is not clearly shown in the video, Kleine said on Monday that Gardner fired to stop Scurlock from physically attacking him. Kleine said this decision was justified because Scurlock had him in a chokehold at the time.

“One of the troubling things … is there is a lot of misinformation about this case in particular,” Kleine said. “The bar owner was interviewed with lawyers present. He said the first shot was a warning shot. He said Scurlock jumped on him and he was scared Scurlock was going to take his gun. He fired in self-defense. He was scared he would lose his life or severe bodily injury.”

Other accounts have stated that there were multiple shots fired during the incident, specifically that Gardner fired two warning shots and then a third, which struck Scurlock in the collarbone.


2. Kleine Said He Is Willing to Reconsider This Decision if He Is Given ‘Substantially’ Different Evidence

During his press conference on Monday, Kleine said he was willing to reconsider the decision to not press any charges on Gardner — but only if new evidence is “substantially” different than what he has already seen.

Nebraska State Senator Justin Wayne, who has acted as a representative for the Scurlock family, said following the press conference, “In this community, we prosecute black and brown individuals a lot more for things like we just watched. (Gardner) had an unlawful carry concealed weapon.” Gardner’s carry concealed weapons permit had expired, Kleine said.

Wayne has asked for a grand jury to be formed for the case. “We watched a video where anybody else would have gotten charged with something,” he said. “We are asking for a grand jury and charges to be brought against (Gardner).”


3. Kleine Has Been Douglas County Attorney Since 2007

Don Kleine

Douglas CountyKleine

According to his official website, Kleine has served as Douglas County Attorney since 2007. He holds an elected position with a four-year term in office.

Kleine’s position involves oversight across a wide range of issues, including felony criminal prosecution, misdemeanor domestic violence prosecution, juvenile delinquency prosecution, child protection prosecution, coroner’s duties, inheritance tax review, providing legal support to the officials and employees of Douglas County, civil litigation on behalf of Douglas County and more.

Kleine was last elected in 2018, which means he is up for re-election in 2022.


4. #JusticeforJamesScurlock Immediately Began to Trend Following Kleine’s Announcement

Scurlock’s death has come as a gut punch to the thousands of Americans protesting across the country in the last week following the death of George Floyd, in which former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder. As soon as his identity was revealed, the 22-year-old’s name became a rallying cry on social media, with #JusticeforJamesScurlock trending globally on Twitter.


5. Scurlock’s Family Has Asked for ‘Closure & Peace’ in the Form of Gardner’s Prosecution

In the wake of Scurlock’s death, his family has spoken out, demanding justice for their lost son. Scurlock’s father, also named James, said publicly (via the Daily Beast), “Last night I lost a son, my wife lost a son, my kids lost a brother. His daughter lost a father. All because he decided to protest against racism.”

He continued, “There’s a lot of speculation and rumors about how this happened. I don’t really care to be honest. My family wants closure and peace. … What we want is for this to go to court and get a full prosecution. We want this to go with justice and go peacefully.”

This is a developing post and will be updated.

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