In February, two white men shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery, a black 25-year-old. On Thursday, roughly two months after his death, the men were arrested and charged for murder.
The Brunswick News reports that two people called 911 after seeing Arbery in their Brunswick, Georgia, neighborhood on February 23. One caller told the emergency dispatcher that Arbery was seen near a construction site and was running down the street. The second caller reported Arbery running down the street. Neither caller detailed a crime occurring, even when prompted by the dispatcher.
Nearly two months prior, a Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm pistol had been stolen from a pickup truck parked at the home of Travis McMichael, 34. He told police that his father, Gregory McMichael, 64, moved the pickup truck to another spot in front of the home and forgot to lock the vehicle. Shortly after, Travis found an empty handgun holster, indicating that the gun was stolen.
On the day of his death, the McMichaels chased Arbery in their truck with guns after seeing him run through the neighborhood. They told police that they believed he was the burglar. After the McMichaels took off after Arbery, they stopped their truck in the middle of the road, likely in an attempt to cut him off. Arbery struggled with one of the armed McMichaels while the other shot at him from the back of the pickup truck. Arbery then tried to run away but collapsed in the middle of the road.
Arbery’s family said the young man, a former all-star linebacker at Brunswick High, was simply jogging, as he often did. He was unarmed.
A video of the fatal confrontation has since gone viral:
NEWS: Graphic video appears to show Ahmaud Arbery, 25 of GA., whose family says he was out for a run, confronted by 2 men who shot him dead saying they thought he was a burglar. A prosecutor wants a grand jury to decide whether the men should be charged. pic.twitter.com/kEYYJW7UlM
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) May 5, 2020
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), Travis is the one who ultimately killed Arbery.
It took two months for officials to bring charges against the McMichaels.
The Brunswick News reports that there were several conflicts of interest, seeing as the elder McMichael was a Glynn County police officer for seven years, followed by a 20-year career as an investigator for the Brunswick District Attorney’s (D.A.) Office. Brunswick D.A. Jackie Johnson recused herself and the case was assigned to Ware County D.A. George E. Barnhill. Barnhill also had to recuse himself after it was discovered that his son, George F. Barnhill, worked for the Brunswick D.A.
In a letter to Captain Tom Jump of the Glynn County Police Department (GCPD), Barnhill expressed his belief that the McMichaels conducted a legal citizen’s arrest. Because of this, the autopsy, and the video, Barnhill did “not see grounds for arrest.”
The case was turned over to Hinesville D.A. Tom Durden.
On Tuesday, Durden released a letter saying he would bring the case before a grand jury “for consideration of criminal charges.” Because of shutdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Durden wouldn’t be able to bring the case before a grand jury until June 12, nearly four months after Arbery’s death.
Following public outcry, both over the lack of arrests and Durden’s decision to wait on a grand jury, the GBI announced on Thursday that the McMichaels had been arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault. The GBI also explained that it began investigating the shooting in partnership with Durden upon his request and received the case file earlier in the week.
Additionally, the GCPD, which conducted its own investigation into the shooting, had previously asked the GBI to investigate threats against the department and the release of the video showing Arbery’s death.
Attorney Lee Merritt, who is representing Arbery’s family, said the public’s attention was the “turning point” in the case.
.@MeritLaw said public outcry led to the arrests in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. "I don’t think there would have been an arrest if there wasn’t outcry," he said. "The video was already in the hands of investigators…Those who raised their voices…That was the turning point."
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) May 8, 2020
President Donald Trump offered his condolences “to the parents and to the loved ones of the young gentleman” on Thursday. Trump said he would receive a “full report” later in the evening.
Rep. Justin Amash, who is exploring a presidential run with the Libertarian Party, said Arbery’s death was a reminder that “we still do not live the truth that all are created equal.”
The horrific murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia is a reminder that we still do not live the truth that all are created equal. He was gunned down without regard for his humanity. The video is sickening and heartbreaking, and his family deserves justice.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) May 6, 2020
Amash also called out “double standards in law enforcement” while reacting to the McMichaels’ arrest.
Democratic presidential front-runner and former Vice President Joe Biden tweeted, “It is time for a swift, full, and transparent investigation into his murder.”
The video is clear: Ahmaud Arbery was killed in cold blood. My heart goes out to his family, who deserve justice and deserve it now. It is time for a swift, full, and transparent investigation into his murder. https://t.co/alvY5WjdHx
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) May 6, 2020
Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union compared Arbery’s death to Trayvon Martin’s 2012 “Stand Your Ground” death, in which George Zimmerman reported a “suspicious person” after seeing Martin in his Florida neighborhood. Martin was ultimately shot by Zimmerman, who was ultimately found not guilty of murder or manslaughter. (Martin was unarmed.)
The GBI will hold a press conference this morning. Merritt will also hold a press conference at a date to be determined.