The North Star has dropped its paywall during this COVID-19 crisis so that pertinent information and analysis is available to everyone during this time. This is only possible because of the generous support of our members. We rely on these funds to pay our staff to continue to provide high-quality content. If you are able to support, we invite you to do so here.
Seventy-four days. That’s how long it took Georgia authorities to finally arrest the two men who hunted 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery down while he was jogging and killed him. Nearly three months after Arbery’s life was senselessly cut short, his killers were arrested and charged with his murder.
On May 7, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) announced 64-year-old Gregory McMichael and his 34-year-old son Travis McMichael were arrested in Arbery’s slaying. The McMichaels were each charged with murder and aggravated assault. The two men were taken into custody and were set to be booked into the Glynn County Jail, GBI said.
“I’m very comfortable in telling you there’s more than sufficient probable cause in this case for felony murder,” GBI Director Vic Reynolds said in a news conference on May 8.
Their arrests came just two days after heart-wrenching cellphone footage of Arbery’s murder was shared on social media. Brunswick criminal defense lawyer Alan Tucker revealed on May 7 that he released the video in a bid for transparency. Tucker said he obtained the video from the person who recorded it on their cell phone, USA Today reported.
The video led to a wave of public pressure on local and state authorities to arrest and charge the men for their actions. On May 8, President Donald Trump told Fox News that the video was “certainly a disturbing or troubling video” but questioned what occurred “off-tape.”
However, 36 hours after GBI became involved in the investigation, Gregory and Travis McMichael were in custody, Reynolds said. “We are going to go wherever the evidence takes us,” Reynolds said. “In a perfect world, we would have preferred to have been asked to become involved in February, of course.”
Reynolds also noted that investigators will be looking into the involvement of a third man. A memo written by a district attorney who previously led the investigation said William “Roddie” Bryan joined the McMichaels in “hot pursuit” of Arbery, USA Today reported. Bryan is listed on the police report as a witness to the killing.
An attorney for Wanda Cooper, Arbery’s mother, called for the arrest of Bryan, who recorded the incident and did nothing to stop it. Reynolds said the case remains active and ongoing.
What Happened on February 23?
Arbery, an avid runner, was jogging about two miles from his home in the suburban neighborhood of Still Shores on February 23, when he was confronted by the McMichaels. The elder McMichael told police he believed Arbery looked like a suspected burglar, but footage of Arbery’s final moments tell a different story.
The two men were carrying a .357 Magnum and a shotgun when they chased after Arbery in their pickup truck. The McMichaels blocked the road ahead of where Arbery was jogging as Bryan drove up behind him.
Gregory told police he and his son told Arbery, who was unarmed, that they wanted to talk. He claimed Arbery responded by violently attacking his son and that the two fought over the shotgun.
However, the nearly 40-second video shows Arbery attempting to jog around the car but being confronted by Travis McMichael. Shouting can be heard when the first shot rings out. The two men are seen wrestling for the shotgun when a second shot goes off. McMichaels and Arbery stumble back into view when a third and final shot occurs. The victim staggers forward before crumbling to the ground.
Why Did It Take So Long to Arrest the McMichaels?
The case has been passed between three district attorneys after the first two were forced to recuse themselves. The Brunswick judicial district prosecutor recused herself from the case because Gregory McMichael previously worked in her office as a district attorney investigator. The elder McMichael also served as a former police detective with the Glynn County Police Department.
The case was next assigned to Waycross district attorney George Barnhill. A letter by Barnhill cited by The New York Times, argues that there was not sufficient probable cause to arrest the two men.
Barnhill said the men were legally carrying their weapons and cited the state’s citizen’s arrest statue and self-defense statute. The district attorney also claimed that Arbery began the fight and that Travis McMichael was within his rights “to use deadly force to protect himself.”
The Waycross DA eventually recused himself from the case when Cooper noted his conflict of interest—his son works for the Brunswick district attorney. The case was then assigned to Hinesville prosecutor Tom Durden, who announced on May 5 that a grand jury would decide if criminal charges would be pursued. He also requested the GBI become involved in the case.
Gregory and Travis McMichael’s arrests were largely lauded, but a Facebook group boasting 58.7K members called for “justice” for the pair. “Justice for Gregory and Travis McMichael,” a private group originally called Christians Against Google, claims the men were “God fearing men [who] were only trying to protect their neighborhood.”
Head to www.RunWithMaud.com to sign up for a run anytime beginning this weekend through May 18 to support Ahmaud’s family.
Ahmaud’s best friend Akeem Baker set up a GoFundMe to assist his slain friend’s family. You can contribute to the fund by visiting here.
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.