Wanda Cooper-Jones, the mother of Ahmaud Arbery has filed a federal lawsuit against several white men involved in Arbery’s killing. Also named in the suit are individuals involved in the investigation.
Filed on the anniversary of Arbery’s death, NPR reports the suit names Gregory and Travis McMichael, father and son, and William “Roddie” Bryan. Each of them are facing felony murder charges for their connection to the chilling incident which was captured on camera.
Cooper-Jones has said she wants all parties including local police and prosecutors to be held accountable for their actions. The suit alleges the men “willfully and maliciously conspired to follow, threaten, detain and kill Ahmaud Arbery.” It also states law enforcement officials and prosecutors were intimately involved with a cover-up in the investigation. Glynn County Police Chief John Powell and other officers are listed as defendants in the lawsuit.
“When I laid Ahmaud to rest, one of the last things I shared with my son was, I will fight for you son,” said Cooper-Jones in a local news report. “Now it has been revealed what happened. My fight turns into justice.”
On February 23, 2020, Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man was killed following an aggressive chase after he was seen running in a Glynn County, Georgia neighborhood. A video including the incident went viral in May leading to a massive outcry over his death. Following the release of the clip, his death garnered national attention and it became a significant example of extrajudicial killings in the United States. Two days after the video was unveiled, Gregory, a former police officer, and Travis McMichael were taken into custody and charged.
In previously released interviews, Gregory said they chased Arbery because they believed he fit the description of someone who’d been committing burglaries in the nearby Satilla Shores neighborhood. Though no evidence pointed to this beyond the fact that he was Black, the lawsuit alleges they were “deputized” to act by local police. Per The Cut, the lawsuit cites text messages between Glynn County police officer Robert Rush, who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, and the owner of a construction site that Arbery wandered around the day he died. In the texts, the officers instructed the owner to contact McMichael if the footage ever showed strangers on his property.
District attorneys Jackie Johnson and George Barnhill who are named in the suit are accused of delaying the arrests of the suspects due to their relationship with Gregory. He was previously an investigator in Johnson’s office and had worked alongside Barnhill’s son. Both prosecutors recused themselves from the case.
Arbery’s family is not holding back, they are standing firmly and seeking justice for Ahmaud’s killing. “Justice for this family looks like going after the system that justified it, that allowed these men to run free for months, that failed to prosecute properly, that offered racist explanations or why the shooting was justified,” said attorney Lee Merritt who is representing the family, per ABC News.
Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William Bryan are currently awaiting trial. Each of them has pleaded not guilty on all charges.
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