On Tuesday, Thea Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery’s aunt said: “This is the actual first time that we have actually been in the same courtroom with the people who are responsible for killing Ahmaud.”
The three Georgia men indicted for their involvement in the killing of Ahamud Arbery pleaded not guilty to federal hate crime charges and attempted kidnapping charges on Tuesday.
Travis McMichael, 35, Gregory McMichael, 65 and William Bryan, 51 were already facing state counts when they were indicted on hate crime charges last week by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Georgia.
Previous court proceedings happened virtually, but on Tuesday, the men escorted by U.S. marshals appeared in person in orange jumpsuits before a federal judge and were shackled at the ankles. Arbery’s family sat in the gallery, according to CNN.
Following the violent death that included Arbery being chased down in a truck by three men and fatally shot, Gregory McMichael and Travis, a father and son, claimed to be conducting a citizen’s arrest and to be acting in self-defense. The two men and William Bryan, who recorded the incident and allegedly blocked off Arbery with his truck were hit with one count of interference with rights, a hate crime. Gregory and Travis were also charged with one count of each using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm, reports CNN.
Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother released the following statement:
“It’s one step closer to justice. They did the investigation properly and they came out with those indictments. So, my family and I were pleased.”
Federal prosecutors have stated that the suspects used force to interfere with Arbery’s right to utilize a public street due to his race. They also noted that the hate crime led to his death. As he was jogging, the McMichaels “armed themselves with firearms, got into a truck, and chased Arbery through the public streets of the neighborhood while yelling at him, using their truck to cut off his route, and threatening him with firearms,” prosecutors said.
The three men were taken into custody in May of last year following Arbery’s death. Gregory and Travis McMichael allege that they thought Arbery was a burglary suspect.
“This is an important milestone in America’s uphill march toward racial justice, and we applaud the Justice Department for treating this heinous act for what it is — a purely evil, racially motivated hate crime,” reads a statement by Arbery family attorney, Benjamin Crump. He added that the indictments were “yet another step in the right direction.”
The men currently remain in state custody.
This article was originally published on April 29, 2021, it was updated on May 12.