The making of two martyrs

Brendan Vaughan
Published in
2 min readOct 7, 2020


Welcome back to Flux, a weekly newsletter from GEN about the powerful forces reshaping America.

What’s in flux?

“Self-defense” as a justification by white people for shooting Black people.

A recent tragedy in Omaha shows how elusive justice remains, even in the summer of BLM. This summer, as protesters marched for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and so many others, the death of James Scurlock flew under the national radar. The difference? Scurlock’s killer wasn’t a police officer: He was Jake Gardner, a bar owner and a former Marine who did two tours in Iraq. One night in late May, five days after Floyd was killed, an altercation between the two men in front of Gardner’s bar turned deadly. In Being a Racist Is Not Against the Law,” Max Ufberg tells the tragic and complicated story of Scurlock and Gardner, martyrs for very different causes.

— Brendan Vaughan, editor-in-chief, GEN

Credit: Owen Freeman

Being a Racist Is Not Against the Law

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. >> Read the full story

Injustice in Omaha, by the numbers

29: One-star reviews of The Hive on Yelp, many referring to experiences of racism

24: Hours Jake Gardner was held by police before he was released without charges.

120: The approximate number of people arrested by Omaha police after an 8 p.m. curfew on Sunday, the day after Scurlock’s death.

95: The number of years in prison Gardner faced for killing James Scurlock after a grand jury indictment for manslaughter

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Brendan Vaughan

Editor in Chief, GEN by Medium. Previously: Random House Publishing Group, GQ, Condé Nast Portfolio, Esquire