On the night of Saturday, May 30, Jake Gardner sat inside The Hive, a popular bar he owned in the Old Market area of downtown Omaha, plotting against a phantom enemy. The bar was closed and the lights were off. Protesters were on their third night of marching after the police killing of George Floyd; a few instances of looting and violent clashes with police the previous night had captured local headlines and set off a nerve for Gardner, a 38-year-old Marine veteran. He was joined at the bar by his father, David, and the bar’s bouncer; between them, they had one shotgun and three handguns. In texts and Facebook messages later obtained by the Omaha Police Department, Gardner mused about whether he had a clear line of fire to the street from his perch at The Hive. At 9:14 p.m. he wrote on Facebook that, given the threat of looters, he would have to pull “48 hours of military style firewatch.”
Around 10:55 p.m., Gardner’s fears were manifested. He and the others watched as someone smashed the bar’s windows with rocks and an old signpost. Jake and David Gardner ran outside to confront a small huddle of people standing nearby. Included in that group was James Scurlock, a 22-year-old Black man.