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The Lost Sons of Omaha

The Tragic Deaths of Jake Gardner and James Scurlock in a Fractured America (t)

Read by Dion Graham

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About The Book


“A meticulously researched and briskly written account that deftly weaves the influences of racial injustice, economic disparity, incendiary social media, and guns.” —Associated Press

From the award-winning journalist Bob Woodward calls “one of the truly great reporters working today,” a searing account of two linked and tragic deaths stemming from the 2020 George Floyd protests that explores the complex political and racial mistrust and division of today’s America.

“One of the most superb testaments about the confusion, despair, and—hopefully—humility that frames our century that one could ever hope to read.” —Hilton Als

On May 30, 2020, in Omaha, Nebraska, amid the protests that rocked our nation after George Floyd’s death at the hands of police, thirty-eight-year-old white bar owner and Marine veteran Jake Gardner fatally shot James Scurlock, a twenty-two-year-old Black protestor and young father. What followed were two investigations of Scurlock’s death, one conducted by the white county attorney Don Kleine, who concluded that Gardner had legally acted in self-defense and released him without a trial, and a second grand jury inquiry conducted by Black special prosecutor Fred Franklin that indicted Gardner for manslaughter. Days after the indictment, Gardner killed himself with a single bullet to the head.

The deaths of both Scurlock and Gardner gave rise to a toxic brew of misinformation, false claims, and competing political agendas. The two men, each with their own complicated backgrounds, were turned into caricatures. The twin tragedies amounted to an ugly and heartbreaking reflection of a painfully divided country. Here, Joe Sexton “elevates a made-for-social-media tragedy into a kaleidoscopic account of race, justice, and urban politics” (The New York Times Book Review) masterfully unpacking the whole twisted, nearly unbelievable chronicle and explaining which claims were true and which distorted or simply false. “A book of intense moral weight and integrity” (The Washington Post), The Lost Sons of Omaha involves some of the most pressing issues facing America today, including our country’s broken criminal justice system, the failure to care for the men and women who fight our wars, the dangerous spread of misinformation, particularly on social media, and the urgent need to band together in the collective pursuit of truth, fairness, and healing.

About The Author

© ProPublica

Joe Sexton, as a senior editor at The New York Times and ProPublica, has directed six projects awarded Pulitzer Prizes, including the award for breaking news for his staff’s coverage of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s downfall. He has shared in three Emmy Awards for documentary film, one of them for a harrowing look at the reemergence of violent white supremacists in America. As a reporter, he covered sports, politics, and the country’s criminal justice system. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sports Writing. Sexton is a lifelong resident of Brooklyn and the father of four daughters.

About The Reader

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (May 9, 2023)
  • Runtime: 11 hours and 53 minutes
  • ISBN13: 9781797155753

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Raves and Reviews

"Dion Graham renders this taut and disturbing audiobook with a deliberate cadence and a thoughtful tone that suit its tragic events. He performs the many voices and points of view carefully and clearly...This work portrays a city and a nation with deep wounds and lasting divisions."

– AudioFile Magazine

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