Friday, May 8, 2020

It Took Georgia Officials 2 Months To Arrest and Charge Father and Son With Ahmaud Arbery's Murder

By Zuri Davis - May 08, 2020 at 09:16AM

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 Shooting

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:

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), Travis is the one who ultimately killed Arbery.

Delayed Arrests

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.

Reactions

Attorney Lee Merritt, who is representing Arbery's family, said the public's attention was the "turning point" in the case.

Politicians, including U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, and Gov. Brian Kemp, have all expressed their support for the GBI's investigation.

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."

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."

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.)

Commentators across the political spectrum have also spoken out.

What's Next?

The GBI will hold a press conference this morning. Merritt will also hold a press conference at a date to be determined.

Civilians have organized a running campaign for Friday in support of Arbery. A Facebook page called "I RUN WITH MAUD" was created to bring attention to the shooting.


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