Fact vs. Fiction: Dissecting the Lies Surrounding the Ahmaud Arbery Murder Case

Nicole Rojas
May 19, 2020 - 8:00

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White supremacists and the far-right are working non-stop to spread lies about the circumstances surrounding the brutal slaying of Ahmaud Arbery. Two of the three men involved in Arbery’s killing were arrested earlier this month, more than two months after he was shot three times while out for a run. 

Far-right and neo-Nazi groups are sharing racist lies about Arbery online, an analyst for the Middle East Media Research Institute, which is gathering information about the case, told The Washington Post. The lies are being peddled by conservatives on message boards, such as 4chan, and social media sites. 

Some of the lies being shared center around what Arbery was wearing at the time of his death. Far-right conservatives have claimed that the 25-year-old was wearing Timberland boots and khaki shorts when he was shot and killed by Gregory and Travis McMichael. Others claim that Arbery was carrying a hammer and had recently burglarized an unfinished home. 

Although verified video footage of Arbery’s death contradicts the claims regarding what he was wearing or carrying, that has not stopped some popular conservatives from sharing them online. Political commentator, Candace Owens, tweeted several times that Arbery couldn’t possibly be a jogger because he was wearing khaki shorts and stopped to break into a home. 

“The most remarkable finding is that an alternative narrative was created, most notably that Arbery was carrying a hammer and wearing Timberland boots—two claims which CCTV footage and mainstream media reporting does not support,” a senior terrorism analyst for the Middle East Media Research Institute who was not identified told The Post. 

The claim that Arbery burglarized an unfinished property is also unfounded. While Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper, confirmed to CNN that her son did enter the property on February 23, the day he was killed. However, a series of surveillance videos confirms that Arbery was far from the only person to visit the home.

Homeowner Larry English released nearly a dozen surveillance videos from October 25 to February 23 that showed men, women and children entering the property. A nighttime video on October 25 shows a Black man walking around the home. A Black man is also seen in the home on two videos taken on November 18, CNN reported. 

Three more clips taken on December 17 and another taken on February 11 also show a Black man walking around the home. Nothing is taken from the building, which remains under construction. Arbery is only confirmed to be in one video — the one taken the day of his death. 

English’s attorney, J. Elizabeth Graddy, said on May 15 that it is believed the young Black man seen in the videos may have been entering the home for a water break. 

“It now appears that this young man may have been coming onto the property for water,” Graddy said in a statement cited by ABC11. “There is a water source at the dock behind the house as well as a source near the front of the structure. Although these water sources do not appear within any of the cameras’ frames, the young man moves to and from their locations.” 

She noted that nothing was stolen from the property. 

Case Status

The Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI) has not confirmed whether it will seek charges against William “Roddie” Bryan, the man who joined the McMichaels in pursuit of Arbery and filmed his last moments. According to a police report, the elder McMichael told police that Bryan helped block Arbery as they chased after him. Bryan is listed as a witness to the killing on the police report. 

GBI Director Vic Reynolds said on May 8 that bureau investigators would be looking into the involvement of a third man. The GBI told The North Star that it did not have any updates regarding possible charges against Bryan.

On May 18, Arbery’s family lawyer, S. Lee Merritt told Action News Jax that the video shows Arbery being chased by the three men for nearly five minutes before he was killed. 

While Bryan has denied participating in the confrontation that resulted in Arbery’s death, the McMichael’s have claimed that evidence will exonerate them. The father and son were arrested on May 7 and were both charged with murder and aggravated assault. 

“The truth will reveal that this is not just another act of violent racism,” attorney Frank Hogue claimed to the press. “Greg McMichael did not commit murder.”

Action Steps 

  • Head to www.RunWithMaud.com to sign a petition or call 777-800-0689 to demand justice for Ahmaud and call for William Bryan’s arrest. 
  • Ahmaud’s best friend, Akeem Baker, set up a GoFundMe to assist his friend’s mother, Wanda Cooper and the rest of Ahmaud’s family. To donate to the fund, visit here

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About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a senior writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.

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