On Tuesday, May 5th, Georgia district attorney Tom Durden announced that he expects to present the case of the February shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery to the next available grand jury. The announcement comes after a local radio host posted a video of the shooting.
The case has picked up steam in the last two months.
On February 23, 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery was shot dead in Brunswick, Georgia. Arbery — who was a former high school athlete — was jogging in a neighborhood not far from his home at the time.
Gregory McMichael — a resident of the neighborhood — told officers that he thought Arbery resembled a man suspected in a string of break-ins in the neighborhood. McMichael saw Arbery “hauling ass” and called his son Travis to attempt to stop and question him. According to the police report, the younger McMichael brought his shotgun with him. The elder brought a handgun.
The two jumped in their truck, following Arbery to an intersection. Travis got out the truck, shotgun in hand. At that point, Arbery attempted to elude the McMichaels. He failed to escape and engaged in a scuffle with Travis. Arbery was shot three times and died at the scene.
On Thursday, May 7th, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced that it has arrested Gregory and Travis for the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery.
The two were charged with murder and aggravated assault and taken to Glynn County Jail.
For months, no one was arrested or charged in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery. The initial prosecutor for the Brunswick judicial district, Jackie Johnson, recused herself because Gregory McMichael had worked in her office as an investigator before he retired.
George E. Barnhill, the district attorney in Waycross, Ga., then recused himself next after the Arbery family pointed out he had a son that works as an assistant prosecutor for Johnson.
According to the New York Times, before leaving the case, Barnhill wrote a letter obtained by The Times that there was not enough evidence to arrest Gregory or Travis McMichael. He sited a law saying, “A private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge.” He also wrote both men were legally carrying their firearms under Georgia’s open carry law.
On Sunday, May 3rd, Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper told CNN that when the police notified her, they told her Ahmaud was involved in a burglary. Officers said there was a confrontation between her son and the homeowner, and a struggle over a gun. “He was not armed,” Cooper told CNN.
“All I want to do is get justice for my son,” Ahmaud’s father Marcus told the Associated Press on Tuesday. “This is terrible. It could happen to anybody’s kid.”
On Tuesday, local Brunswick radio station WGIG posted a cellphone recording of the incident. Shortly afterward, Atlantic Judicial Circuit district attorney Tom Durden, who is now overseeing the case, announced that he expects to present the case to a Glynn County grand jury as soon as possible. At the moment, courts are prohibited from assembling grand juries until at least June 13 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to USA Today, the video appears to be shot from a moving vehicle behind the runner. The footage shows the runner jogging in broad daylight. A truck has parked in the road ahead of him. The runner attempts to pass the truck on the passenger’s side. A shouting match ensues, and the runner can be seen grappling with a man armed with a rifle or shotgun. Shots are fired, and seconds later, the runner — shot at point-blank range — falls face down.
In a memorandum from the Waycross Judicial Circuit Office of the District Attorney, the man filming the incident — Bryan William — actually joined the McMichaels, following Arbery “in hot pursuit.”
On Tuesday, writer and activist Shaun King posted the video to over a million of his followers on Twitter, pinning it to his page. He also put up a website raising awareness around the case. King has been heavily criticized in the past for posting graphic videos of violent attacks on Black people like the footage of Arbery’s death.
Debates about King posting the video started to occur on Twitter.
Two prosecutors have recused themselves from the case due to possible conflicts of interest. One anonymously wrote that Travis McMichael acted out of self-defense. The other, Jackie Jackson, recused herself because Gregory McMichael worked as an investigator in her office and retired last year.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Senator Stacy Abrams have expressed concern following the shooting.
“GBI director Reynolds has offered resources & manpower to D.A. Durden to ensure a thorough, independent investigation into the death of Ahmaud Arbery,” Kemp tweeted on Tuesday. “Georgians deserve answers. State law enforcement stands ready to ensure justice is served.”
On Tuesday night, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden tweeted about the case.
“The video is clear,” Biden tweeted. “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.”
On Wednesday, May 6th, GBI Director Vic Reynolds announced that his office was asked by local authorities to help with the investigation. In a Twitter video, Reynolds announced he assigned three investigators to the case.
“I realize that emotions are running high in this community and they are running high throughout this state. I am confident that we will do justice in this matter,” Reynolds said in the video.
On Wednesday, celebrities like LeBron James, T.I., Taylor Swift, and Meek Mill posted about Arbery’s death. “We’re literally hunted EVERYDAY/EVERYTIME we step foot outside the comfort of our own homes,” he wrote. “Can’t even go for a damn jog man!”
“It won’t stop until we stop it!” T.I. wrote on Instagram.
“This really brought tears to my eyes,” Megan thee Stallion wrote. “I can’t believe people can be this evil it’s disgusting.”
“This has got to stop,” said Fat Joe.
“No justice no peace,” Snoop Dogg added.
Pop star Taylor Swift called the death of Arbery “senseless, cold-blooded,” and “racially motivated.”
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