Several witnesses have come forward with information about the shooting death of James Scurlock, who was killed by a white bar owner during a protest in Omaha, Nebraska, on May 30.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine announced that criminal charges would not be filed against Gatsby bar owner Jake Gardner just days after the shooting, but witnesses and members of Gardner’s family are challenging Kleine’s finding that Gardner acted in self-defense, Yahoo News reports

Alayna Melendez said she'd heard rumors earlier that day that alt-right instigators would be at the demonstrations. The 19-year-old said she'd been taking photos at the protest and saw 38-year-old Gardner pointing a gun at people passing his bar.

“I was taught gun rules from a very young age. My grandpa told me never to point a gun at anybody, even a BB gun,” Melendez said. “I thought, I need to take this man down."

She then tackled him to the ground to disarm him, knocking him into a puddle. Gardner, a former Marine, fired off two warning shots that startled Melendez. She first mistook them for flash-bang explosions and retreated upon realizing they were gunshots. 

Scurlock then jumped on top of him. In response, Gardner fired a shot behind him, hitting and killing the young man. 

Melendez, who was nearby during the fatal shooting, said she tried to tell officers her account of the incident but that no one seemed interested in hearing her side. 

“Nobody talked to me after,” she said. “They didn’t try to talk to anybody at the scene.”

The teenager feels guilty for the incident which took place that night. 

"If anybody should’ve gotten shot it should’ve been me. The unfortunate reality is I’m stuck here thinking I caused his death, or I could’ve prevented more," she said of Scurlock. 

Gardner’s cousin, Jenny Heineman, posted on Twitter that she believed his actions were racially motivated the day following Scurlock’s death. After the post was shared by thousands, Heineman removed the tweet from her account, according to Yahoo. 

Prior to Kleine’s press conference announcing his findings, Heineman said she made calls to the county attorney’s office and the mayor’s hotline in an attempt to provide context she felt was vital in understanding the racist environment in which Gardner was groomed. 

On June 8, she testified at a public hearing in Omaha where she shared how much grief she feels due to Gardner's actions, per The Lincoln Journal Star. 


"Knowing that all the times my family members used the N-word, which was a lot, all of the times that my family made racist jokes, all of the times that my family ingrained violence into the minds and hearts and souls of their own babies, all of those things were leading up to the death of James," she said. 

After the video of Heineman’s speech gained local attention, she said she received a request from the police asking her to give a statement. Heineman also said she has been receiving threats from relatives. She told Yahoo that one member of her family texted her, “dishonesty to the family is akin to ‘family genocide.’”

Another relative, who wished to not be identified, said Gardner and his father are easily angered and that “he was raised in an absolutely steaming, giant pot of racism,” per Yahoo. 

“I can tell you that for decades I watched this guy, Jake’s father, sit around with the rest of the men in that clan and talk with complete hatred and disgust about ‘n****rs and k***s and Mexicans and sand n****rs,’” the relative said. 

After pressure from community members and protesters who organized outside his house, Kleine has since called for a grand jury to review the case. A special prosecutor has been assigned, but coronavirus concerns may delay the process, Yahoo reports.

He shared a statement to Twitter announcing the new investigation. 

“I welcome and support the calling of a grand jury to review the evidence in this rare instance,” he wrote. “These times are unique and in an effort and hope in restoring faith in the system, I am going to Petition the District Court to convene a grand jury with a special prosecutor to review this case.”

You can donate to the GoFundMe for Scurlock's family here