Killing of Ahmaud Arbery

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Killing of Ahmaud Arbery
AHMAUD-ARBERY-1.jpg
An undated photo of Ahmaud Arbery
DateFebruary 23, 2020 (2020-02-23)
LocationSatilla Shores
Unincorporated Glynn County, Georgia, U.S.
Coordinates31°07′26″N 81°33′22″W / 31.123871°N 81.556236°W / 31.123871; -81.556236Coordinates: 31°07′26″N 81°33′22″W / 31.123871°N 81.556236°W / 31.123871; -81.556236
DeathsAhmaud Arbery
SuspectsTravis McMichael
Gregory McMichael
William "Roddie" Bryan
ChargesMalice murder, felony murder (4 counts), aggravated assault (2 counts), false imprisonment, criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment[1]

On February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Marquez Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old African-American man, was pursued and fatally shot while jogging near Brunswick in Glynn County, Georgia.[2][3][4] Arbery had been pursued by three white residents—Travis McMichael and his father Gregory, who were armed and driving a pickup truck,[5] and William "Roddie" Bryan, who followed Arbery in a second vehicle—and was confronted and fatally shot by Travis McMichael.[4][6] Arbery's killing and the delayed investigation and arrests of suspects sparked debates about racial inequality in the United States. The case has been widely reported internationally.

The Glynn County Police Department (GCPD) said the Brunswick District Attorney's Office advised them on February 23 to make no arrests.[7] The Brunswick District Attorney's Office denied that such advice was given to the GCPD by either the Brunswick District Attorney or her Assistant District Attorneys.[8] On February 24, Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill, who had not yet been assigned to the case, advised the GCPD that no arrests should be made.[9][10] Barnhill officially took over the case on February 27.[10] On April 2, Barnhill again advised the GCPD to make no arrests, while announcing his intention to recuse himself from the case due to connections between his son and Gregory McMichael.[10][11][12] Barnhill requested recusal on April 7.[10] The case was ultimately transferred to the Cobb County District Attorney's Office, the fourth prosecutor's office to handle it.[13]

At the behest of Gregory McMichael,[14] a local attorney provided a copy of the video of the shooting to local radio station WGIG, who posted it to their website on May 5.[15] The video went viral,[16] having also been posted on YouTube and Twitter.[17][18] Within hours, District Attorney Tom Durden said a grand jury would decide whether charges would be brought, and accepted an offer from Governor Brian Kemp to have the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) investigate the case.[17][19]

The GBI arrested the McMichaels on May 7 and Bryan on May 21, charging them with felony murder and other crimes.[20][21][22] On June 4, additional evidence was presented by the prosecutor to support the murder charges, including a statement to the GBI by William Bryan that Travis McMichael said "fucking nigger" as Arbery lay dying.[23] A grand jury subsequently indicted each of the three men on charges of malice murder, felony murder (4 counts), aggravated assault (2 counts), false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.[1]

The fact that the McMichaels were not arrested until 74 days after the killing, after the video went viral, sparked debates on racial profiling in the United States.[7][24] Numerous religious leaders, politicians, athletes, and other celebrities condemned the incident.[25] The GCPD and the Brunswick District Attorney's Office were nationally criticized for their handling of the case and the delayed arrests; Georgia Attorney General Christopher M. Carr formally requested the intervention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the case on May 10, which was granted the following day.[26][27][28]

Persons involved

  • Ahmaud Marquez Arbery, aged 25,[29] graduated from Brunswick High School in 2012. He attended South Georgia Technical College during fall 2012 and spring 2013 to train for a career as an electrician.[30][31] Family and friends said he frequently jogged for exercise in and around his neighborhood.[29]
  • Gregory McMichael, age 64, previously worked as a GCPD officer from 1982 to 1989, and as an investigator for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney's Office from 1995 to his retirement in May 2019.[29][32]
  • Travis McMichael, age 34, is Gregory McMichael's son.[33]
  • William "Roddie" Bryan, age 50, was a neighbor of the McMichaels.

Video of the shooting

A video of the incident[34] was recorded by William "Roddie" Bryan, a neighbor of the McMichaels, using his cellphone from his vehicle as he followed Arbery jogging down the neighborhood road.[6][35][36] The video showed Arbery jogging on the left side of the road when he encountered a white pickup truck that had stopped in the right lane.[35][36] Gregory McMichael is standing in the truck bed, while Travis McMichael initially stands beside the driver's door with a shotgun.[36][37][38][39] The vehicle of the person who was recording comes to a stop behind Arbery and the pickup truck.[37][38]

As Arbery approaches the pickup truck, shouting can be heard.[37] Arbery then crosses from the left side of the road to the right side and runs around the passenger's side of the truck. After passing the truck's front, Arbery turns left.[36][38][40] Meanwhile, Travis McMichael, holding his shotgun, approaches Arbery at the truck's front.[39][41] The camera's view of the confrontation between Arbery and Travis is momentarily blocked.[42]

Several media accounts of the video report that the audio of the first gunshot seems to be heard before Arbery and Travis struggle with each other.[35][40][43] Some media accounts first report a struggle, and then mention the gunshot(s).[38][44] Other media accounts describe that it was "not possible" to see from the video what was happening when the first gunshot was fired,[45] or report that the truck "blocks the view of how the men first engage each other" with regard to when the gunshot is heard.[46]

Travis and Arbery are seen to grapple over the shotgun.[40][47] While struggling, both men disappear off camera view on the left side of the frame, after which the audio of a second gunshot is heard.[36][38] When they reappear, Arbery throws punches and tries to grab the shotgun.[38] A third gunshot is heard being fired by Travis at point-blank range as Arbery appears to throw a right-handed punch at his head.[36][37][48] Arbery recoils, stumbles, and collapses face down in the middle of the road while Travis walks away.[35][38][39] Gregory McMichael, who has taken out a handgun but not fired, runs towards his son and Arbery.[37][38]

Investigation by Glynn County Police

Prior thefts and trespassing incidents reported

In December 2019 and January 2020, residents of Satilla Shores reported thefts, trespassing, and activities they deemed suspicious to police and posted on the Satilla Shores Facebook page and Nextdoor account.[49] Three break-ins or thefts were reported. On December 8, 2019, a Satilla Shores resident reported rifles stolen from their unlocked car. Police recorded a theft on December 28, 2019. On January 1, 2020, Travis McMichael filed a report of a firearm stolen from his unlocked truck.[50][51]

On February 11, 2020, Travis called 9-1-1 to report a slender 6-foot-tall black man with short hair, wearing red shorts and a white shirt, who was trespassing on the site of a house under construction. Travis said, "I've never seen this guy before in the neighborhood." The dispatcher asked whether Travis was OK, and he said, "Yeah, it just startled me. When I turned around and saw him and backed up, he reached into his pocket and ran into the house. So I don't know if he's armed or not. But he looked like he was acting like he was." "We've been having a lot of burglaries and break-ins around here lately," Travis said on the call. He told the dispatcher that he was out in his truck, and that as many as four neighbors were out looking for the man. His father Gregory was one of the people out searching that night, and Gregory and at least one other neighbor were armed.[52] Police responded and searched the house along with a neighbor, but found no one.[52][53] However, surveillance video from that evening showed a man who reportedly looked like Arbery, briefly walking in and out of the house under construction. He did not take anything.[52][54]

Security cameras and 9-1-1 calls before the shooting

On February 23, in the minutes before the shooting, a security camera installed on a residence across the street from the house under construction, recorded a man identified by his family as Arbery coming down the road and walking into the house.[55] A second security camera installed within the house recorded a man, identified as Arbery by his family, looking at the interior of the house.[56] Approximately five minutes later, he left and resumed jogging down the street.[55][57][58] After the man left the house, the first camera on the residence across the street showed a white pickup heading in the man's direction, followed a few minutes later by two police cars.[55]

Two calls to 9-1-1 were made just before the shooting. In the first, a male caller said another man was in a house that was "under construction". The 9-1-1 dispatcher asked if the man was "breaking into it right now?" The caller replied: "No ... it's all open." After the caller said the man was now "running down the street", the dispatcher said police would respond. The dispatcher asked at 1:08 p.m., "I just need to know what he was doing wrong. Was he just on the premises and not supposed to be?"[59]

The caller responded, with some parts garbled, saying: "And he's been caught on camera a bunch at night. It's kind of an ongoing thing." The caller identified the man as a "black guy, white T-shirt". In the second call, beginning at 1:14 p.m., a male caller said: "I'm out here at Satilla Shores ...There's a black male running down the street." The 9-1-1 dispatcher asked, "Where at Satilla Shores?" The caller replied: "I don't know what street we're on." The caller shouted, "Stop! ... Watch that. Stop, damn it! Stop!" The dispatcher tried to speak to the caller but did not receive a reply for several minutes. The caller later hung up.[59]

Responding officer's report

The GCPD reached the scene immediately after the fatal shooting. The responding officer's report relied almost entirely on an interview with Gregory McMichael,[60] who was described as a witness.[61][62]

Gregory said he was in his yard when he saw an unidentified man running by.[62] He said he recognized the man from a prior incident "the other night", when he said he saw the man reach into his pants as if for a weapon. He called to his son Travis and said "the guy is running down the street; let's go".[61] Gregory brought a .357 Magnum revolver, while Travis brought a shotgun in their pickup truck.[29][61][62] The McMichaels said they pursued the man because he resembled a suspect in a string of local burglaries. But the police said there had been only one recent theft from an unlocked car in the neighborhood.[51]

Travis attempted to cut off the man with the truck. The man turned and began "running back in the direction from which he came".[62] The report states a third person, who was identified as "Roddy [sic]", also tried to cut off the man, but failed.[6][16] Gregory said they saw the unidentified man and yelled: "Stop, stop, we want to talk to you", and that they pulled up to the man, with Travis exiting the truck with the shotgun. Gregory claimed the man "began to violently attack Travis" before two shots were fired.[29][62] The man died at the scene after "bleeding out", the report concluded. Authorities later identified the man as Arbery.[62]

Autopsy

The autopsy report released by the GBI ruled Arbery's death was a homicide and that it was caused by three gunshot wounds he sustained "during a struggle for the shotgun" that fired those shots.[63][64][65] One gunshot wounded the upper left chest, one gunshot wounded the lower middle chest, and one gunshot caused a "deep, gaping" graze wound to the right wrist. There were no signs of alcohol or drugs in Arbery's body.[66]

Legal proceedings

Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney

The case started under the jurisdiction of Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson.[8][67] Because Gregory McMichael had previously worked as an investigator in her office, she recused herself from further involvement in the case.[68] On February 27, 2020, the case was transferred by the Georgia Attorney General's Office to the Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney's office. The Waycross Judicial Circuit is south of Brunswick Judicial Circuit.[69]

Dispute with the GCPD over whether to make arrests

On March 8, two Glynn County commissioners, citing discussions with Glynn County police, accused Johnson, or her office, of preventing the McMichaels' immediate arrest. Commissioner Allen Booker said: "The police at the scene went to her, saying they were ready to arrest both of them. These were the police at the scene who had done the investigation. She shut them down to protect her friend [Gregory] McMichael." Commissioner Peter Murphy said that officers who responded at the scene had concluded that there was probable cause to make an arrest, but when they contacted Johnson's office, they "were told not to make the arrest."[67]

Johnson's office said that Johnson did not "have any conversation with any GCPD officer about this case" on February 23, and that "no Assistant District Attorney in the office directed any Glynn County police officer not to make an arrest".[8] Johnson's office also blamed the GCPD for being "unable to make a probable cause determination on its own" and argued that it was the local police's responsibility, not the District Attorney's responsibility, to make arrests.[70] It is common for police to consult with the district attorney's office in the aftermath of homicides or other complex cases.[8]

On May 9, the GCPD said that on February 23 the Brunswick District Attorney's Office "became involved in the investigation ... The McMichaels were deemed not to be flight risks and officers were advised by the [Brunswick District Attorney's Office] that no arrests were necessary at the time."[8] The local police also said that on February 24, Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill told them that the killing of Arbery "was justifiable homicide."[8][71][72]

Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney

Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill gave Glynn County police "an initial opinion the day after the shooting" on February 24, according to a memorandum written by Barnhill to Glynn County police on April 2.[9][10] In the April 2 memorandum, Barnhill wrote: "The autopsy supports the initial opinion we gave you on February 24, at the briefing room in the Glynn County Police Department after reviewing the evidence you had at that time. We do not see grounds for an arrest of any of the three parties."[27] But, according to the Office of the Georgia Attorney General on May 10, Barnhill had not yet been appointed to handle Arbery's case on February 24, and he had not put in a request to handle the case.[10][73]

The Georgia Attorney General's Office on May 10 identified the following events as having happened on February 27: the Georgia Attorney General's Office received the request from Jackson's office to transfer Arbery's case to another prosecutor. On the same day, the Georgia Attorney General's Office appointed Barnhill as the presiding prosecutor. Neither Jackson nor Barnhill informed the Georgia Attorney General's Office that Barnhill had already actively participated in the case by reviewing evidence and giving his opinion on whether arrests should occur.[10][73]

On April 1, Arbery's autopsy report was given to Barnhill.[74] On April 2, Barnhill wrote a memorandum to Glynn County police, recommending that no arrests be made.[10][11] Barnhill wrote that the McMichaels were within their rights to chase "a burglary suspect, with solid firsthand probable cause";[29][74] that "Arbery initiated the fight"; and that Travis McMichael "was allowed to use deadly force to protect himself" when "Arbery grabbed the shotgun".[74][75]

Barnhill cited Georgia's citizen arrest law, dating to the Civil War era, as justifying the killing of Arbery (the Georgia law says that either a crime must be committed within the citizen's "immediate knowledge", or there must be "reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion" for a felony crime).[76] Barnhill alleged that videos of Arbery entering the home under construction on the day of the shooting showed Arbery "burglarizing a home immediately preceding the chase and confrontation."[60]

The attorneys representing the Arbery family responded: "This video is consistent with the evidence already known to us. Ahmaud Arbery was out for a jog. He stopped by a property under construction where he engaged in no illegal activity and remained for only a brief period. Ahmaud did not take anything from the construction site. He did not cause any damage to the property. He remained for a brief period of time and was not instructed by anyone to leave but rather left on his own accord to continue his jog. Ahmaud's actions at this empty home under construction were in no way a felony under Georgia law. This video confirms Mr. Arbery's murder was not justified, meaning the actions of the men who pursued him and ambushed him were unjustified."[57]

The owner of the unfinished home, who was 90 miles (140 kilometers) away at the time of the shooting, later said, "I've never had a police report [on my property], or anything stolen from my property, or any kind of robbery."[8] Barnhill wrote that "Arbery's mental health and prior convictions help explain his apparent aggressive nature and his possible thought pattern to attack an armed man."[29][77] Lastly, Barnhill informed the Glynn County police that he was going to recuse from the case due to connections between his son and Gregory McMichael.[12]

On April 7, Barnhill wrote to Georgia's Attorney General, Christopher M. Carr, saying Arbery's "family are not strangers to the local criminal justice system", noting that Arbery's brother and cousin's had encounters with the law.[78] Barnhill told Carr that there was "video of Arbery burglarizing a home immediately preceding the chase and confrontation".[29]

The Georgia Attorney General's Office on May 10 said the following events happened on April 7: it received a request from Barnhill's office to transfer Arbery's case to another prosecutor,[10][73] and Barnhill revealed that he had learned "about 3-4 weeks ago" that Arbery had previously been prosecuted by his son, a prosecutor for the Brunswick Circuit District Attorney's Office, in an earlier case. He also said that one of the defendants had served as an investigator on the same prosecution (this is a reference to Gregory McMichael, who was employed by the Brunswick D.A.'s Office).[10][73][78] The request did not explain why Barnhill had delayed in recusing his office from the case, did not mention that Barnhill had advised Glynn County police on April 2 to make no arrests, and omitted Barnhill's involvement on February 24, instead recounting only his involvement "upon taking the case".[10][73]

On April 13, after Barnhill's recusal, the Georgia Attorney General's Office appointed Atlantic Judicial Circuit District Attorney Tom Durden to take over the handling of the case.[79] The Atlantic Judicial Circuit is the immediately adjacent circuit to the north of Brunswick Judicial Circuit.[69]

Video of the shooting released

A video of the shooting was uploaded on May 5 on the website of local radio station, WGIG; it was received from Gregory McMichael.[14] After two hours, WGIG removed the video for being too graphic.[15][80]

The video was uploaded to YouTube that day.[17] The Arbery family's attorney posted a 28-second segment of the video on Twitter.[18] The video of the shooting went viral.[16] Glynn County police requested the Georgia Bureau of Investigation look into how the video was publicized.[17] The Guardian published an edited version of the video on May 6.[81] TMZ published a longer version of the video on May 5.[34]

On May 7, Alan David Tucker, a local criminal defense attorney, said that he had sent the cell phone video to WGIG,[82][83] and that it had been recorded by William "Roddie" Bryan, who was in the second truck following Arbery.[6] WGIG confirmed that Tucker had provided the video to the radio station.[84] Tucker had informally consulted with the suspects in the case,[84] but said he had not been retained to represent anyone involved.[84][82] Tucker said that he released the video to provide "absolute transparency" due to "erroneous accusations and assumptions",[82] and that "my purpose was not to exonerate them or convict them."[84]

Within hours of the video becoming public, Tom Durden, the district attorney for Georgia's Atlantic Judicial Circuit, said that he would present the case to "the next available grand jury in Glynn County" to decide if charges should be filed. The convening of grand juries had been postponed until after June 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[33][81] Durden accepted Georgia Governor Brian Kemp's offer to bring in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) to investigate.[17][19]

Prosecution of the McMichaels and Bryan

The GBI found probable cause to charge Gregory and Travis McMichael within 36 hours of taking over jurisdiction of the case, and, on May 7, arrested and charged them with felony murder[a][86][87][88] The McMichaels were booked into the Glynn County Jail.[86] At an appearance before a judge the following day, the McMichaels were both denied bond.[89]

Given the "size and magnitude" of the investigation, Durden requested that the case be reassigned to another prosecutor with a larger staff.[90] Pursuant to Durden's request, the Georgia Attorney General's office reassigned the case on May 11 to the Cobb County District Attorney's Office, led by Joyette M. Holmes.[66][90][13] She was the fourth D.A. to take on the case.[13] Arbery's family welcomed the transfer of the case from a southeast Georgia district attorney to one the metro Atlanta area 300 miles (480 km) away.[90][66][13]

On May 21, William "Roddie" Bryan was charged with felony murder and attempt to commit false imprisonment.[22][91] According to the arrest warrant, Bryan tried "to confine and detain" Arbery without legal authority by "utilizing his vehicle on multiple occasions" before Arbery was shot.[92] The GBI said their investigators found "a number of pieces of video" that linked Bryan to the case.[93] Bryan was alleged to have attempted to block Arbery, which was unsuccessful.[22] Arbery's palm print was found on the rear door of Bryan's truck, cotton fibers near the truck bed were attributed to contact with Mr. Arbery, and a dent was found below the location of the cotton fibers.[94]

At the June 4 preliminary hearing, a Glynn County Magistrate Court judge ruled that there was probable cause for the murder charges against all three men.[95][96] The prosecution presented additional evidence to the court to support the murder charges, including hours of testimony from the lead GBI investigator.[96] At the hearing, the prosecutor said that the three men "chased, hunted down and ultimately executed" Arbery,[23] with the McMichaels striking Arbery with their pickup truck while chasing him.[94] The investigator testified that none of the three had called 9-1-1; he said:

"I don't believe it was self-defense by Mr. McMichael. I believe it was self-defense by Mr. Arbery. I believe Mr. Arbery was being pursued, and he ran until he couldn't run anymore. And it was: turn his back to a man with a shotgun, or fight with his bare hands against a man with a shotgun, and he chose to fight."[96]

The prosecution also introduced a statement to the GBI by William Bryan that Travis McMichael said "fucking nigger" while standing over Arbery's body,[23] and testimony that Travis McMichael had previously used the same slur on previous occasions in social media postings and in text messages.[95][96] The alleged use of a racial slur could affect a federal investigation of whether hate crime charges will be brought.[23] Body camera footage showed that the McMichaels' truck had a Confederate flag sticker on its toolbox.[94]

On June 24, it was announced that a Glynn County grand jury had issued an indictment against all three defendants, each on nine counts: malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.[1]

At a hearing on July 17, all three defendants waived arraignment and entered not guilty pleas. During the hearing the lead prosecutor disclosed that Arbery’s palm print had been found on the side of Bryan’s truck and texts taken from Bryan’s cellphone were "replete with racist remarks." At the conclusion of the hearing the judge denied bond to Bryan.[97]

On August 6, attorneys for each McMichael filed separate motions seeking the granting of bond and seeking dismissal of the malice murder and felony criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment charges.[b][98][99][100] That date Bryan's attorney filed an adoption of the motions to dismiss by the McMichaels for his client.[101]

Aftermath

State and federal review of the case

On May 10, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said that his office would review how the investigation into Arbery's death "was handled from the outset".[8] At Carr's request, the GBI is investigating whether District Attorney Johnson or District Attorney Barnhill committed misconduct by "possibly misrepresenting or failing to disclose information during the process of appointing a conflict prosecutor to investigate" the death of Arbery.[66] Carr also called for a federal investigation into how local investigators and authorities handled the case, including "investigation of the communications and discussions by and between the Office of the District Attorney of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit and the Office of the District Attorney of the Waycross Judicial Circuit related to this case."[102]

The next day on May 11, the U.S. Department of Justice responded that the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia "have been supporting and will continue fully to support and participate in the state investigation. We are assessing all of the evidence to determine whether federal hate crimes charges are appropriate."[103][104]

Prior allegations of misconduct by local authorities

Following Arbery's killing, media investigated the history of the GCPD.[5][105] The New York Times noted that in preceding years, the department had "been accused of covering up allegations of misconduct, tampering with a crime scene, interfering in an investigation of a police shooting and retaliating against fellow officers who cooperated with outside investigators."[5]

Days after Arbery was fatally shot, the chief of police, – who had been brought in to clean up a police force described by the county manager in 2019 as poorly trained and characterized by a "culture of cronyism", – was indicted on charges arising from an alleged cover-up of a sexual relationship between an officer and an informant.[5] In response to a grand jury report issued in November 2019, which had condemned the GCPD over "alleged officer misconduct and poor coordination with the local sheriff's office", State Senator William Ligon of Brunswick in early 2020 introduced legislation to allow voters to abolish the Glynn county police department. Although the legislation initially stalled in the General Assembly, after the legislature returned following the COVID-19 recess, the House passed the legislation 152-3.[106][107] The Senate then passed the legislation as Senate Bill 509, which Governor Kemp signed. The legislation allows a November 3, 2020 binding referendum such that the police department would be abolished if a majority of Glynn County voters agreed.[108]

The involvement of the GCPD as the primary investigator in a case involving its former officer Gregory McMichael was controversial.[28]

Arbery's death also prompted re-examinations of the way prosecutions of shootings were handled by the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney's Office. In 2010, two police officers fatally shot an unarmed white woman through her car windshield. Four former prosecutors, who had worked under Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson, alleged that Johnson shielded the officers from criminal prosecution. A 2015 investigation by WSB-TV revealed that Johnson had agreed to withhold a draft murder indictment from the grand jury and had "allowed the officers' department to present a factually inaccurate animation they created showing the car escaping through a gap and running over the officers."[105]

Reactions

Involved parties and their families

Arbery's mother said her son was jogging when he was killed and called for arrests to be made.[109] The Arbery family retained Benjamin Crump, S. Lee Merritt, and Chris Stewart as attorneys.[57] Meritt described the McMichaels as "vigilantes" and "a posse" who "performed a modern lynching in the middle of the day."[110] Arbery's family attorney charged that videos of earlier police encounters show a pattern of unfair treatment of Arbery based on his skin color.[111]

On May 1, Gregory McMichael told The Daily Beast he "never would have gone after someone for their color". He also said he had no direct evidence Arbery had stolen anything in the neighborhood. However, McMichael argued Arbery was on property "without permission".[11]

A lawyer for William Bryan Jr., the man who recorded the shooting using cell phone video,[91] said his client had done nothing wrong, had fully cooperated in the investigation, and "is not now, and never has been, a 'vigilante'."[8] The attorney also described Bryan as "a mechanic with a high-school education"[112] who was simply a witness to the shooting.[113][6]

Attorneys for Arbery's family called for Bryan's arrest. They said that because Bryan had participated in chasing Arbery and had "corralled" him, Bryan participated in the killing.[114]

Current and former elected officials

After the video went public, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said, "I expect justice to be carried out as swiftly as possible." Governor Brian Kemp said on May 7 that "Georgians deserve answers" about the incident.[81][115] Two Glynn County Commissioners, Peter Murphy and Allen Booker, called for a federal probe.[8] After viewing the video, Georgia U.S. Representative Doug Collins and U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler said it was "disturbing" and called for a full investigation and answers.[116]

Speaking to reporters, President Donald Trump commented, "My heart goes out to the parents and to the loved ones of the young gentleman. It's a very sad thing."[117] Then-presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, said that "the video is clear: Ahmaud Arbery was killed in cold blood." Biden offered condolences and called for "a swift, full, and transparent investigation into his murder."[115] Biden also described the shooting as a lynching.[118]

Legislative response

In late June 2020, Georgia enacted new bipartisan hate crimes legislation (House Bill 426). Previous versions of the legislation had passed the state House but failed to pass the state Senate. Arbery's killing was a catalyst for passage of the bill; at the time Georgia was one of just four states without any hate-crimes legislation[119] although Georgia did have a previous hate-crimes law that had been struck down as unconstitutionally vague.[120]

Civil rights groups, commentators, and the public

Mural on Bruswick African American Cultural Center, painted in May 2020[121]
Mural painted in July 2020[122]

After the video was released, demonstrators gathered outside the Glynn County Courthouse to demand an arrest in the case, and called for the resignation of District Attorney Jackie Johnson. The local Brunswick NAACP chapter also called for the resignation of the Glynn County police chief.[123] The Southern Poverty Law Center called for a Federal investigation into the incident, citing their belief Arbery's death was racially motivated.[124][125]

Attorney and journalist David A. French wrote that, under Georgia's stand-your-ground law, because the McMichaels initiated the confrontation,

"It's a crime under Georgia law to point a gun (loaded or unloaded) without legal justification. When Arbery was confronted by armed men who moved directly to block him from leaving, demanding to 'talk,' then Arbery was entitled to defend himself. Georgia's 'stand your ground law' arguably benefits Arbery, not those who were attempting to falsely imprison him at gunpoint."[126]

On May 8, which would have been Arbery's 26th birthday, thousands of supporters of Arbery's family took part in a run of 2.23 miles (3.59 km) in honor of the date of his death; they documented it to social media with the hashtag #IRunWithMaud.[127]

Many clergy and celebrities have voiced support for review of the case, and concern about the violence.[25] Russell D. Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said, "under any Christian vision of justice, there is no situation in which the mob murder of a person can be morally right, nor grounds for a person to be chased down and shot by private citizens."[25] Athletes such as LeBron James, Brian Orakpo, Torrey Smith, Enes Kanter, and Marcus Stroman used Twitter to demand justice, and offer their thoughts and prayers.[128] Others posted tributes to Arbery, such as Lecrae, David A. French, Scott Sauls, Christine Caine, Jack Graham, J.D. Greear, Viola Davis, Wanda Sykes, Padma Lakshmi, Gabrielle Union, and Andy Lassner.[25][129]

On social media, far-right and neo-Nazi groups spread falsehoods about Arbery; their white-nationalist supporters attacked President Trump for his sympathetic comments regarding Arbery. They falsely claimed that Arbery was wielding a hammer and wearing boots when he was shot dead; Arbery was wearing running shoes. They spread racist remarks about Arbery, claiming the McMichaels were victims. Far-right groups said that the arrests of the McMichaels reflected a bias against whites.[130]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ A felony murder, under Georgia law, is a killing committed during the commission of an felony; an intent to kill is not a required element of felony murder.[85]
  2. ^ A motion to dismiss is styled a "Demurrer" in Georgia criminal practice.

References

  1. ^ a b c Richard Fausset, Suspects in Ahmaud Arbery's Killing Are Indicted on Murder Charges, New York Times (June 24, 2020).
  2. ^ Ahmaud Arbery: What do we know about the case?, BBC News (June 5, 2020).
  3. ^ Feindt, Casey (May 22, 2020). "GBI: William 'Roddie' Bryan Jr.'s crime 'helped cause the death of Ahmaud Arbery'". First Coastal News. Retrieved May 25, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Ellis, Nicquel Terry (May 8, 2020). "What we know about Satilla Shores, the community where Ahmaud Arbery was killed". USA Today. Archived from the original on May 9, 2020. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d Rojas, Rick; Fausset, Richard; Kovaleski, Serge F. (May 8, 2020). "Georgia Killing Puts Spotlight on a Police Force's Troubled History". The New York Times.
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