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Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was an avid runner who loved to stay in shape by jogging in and around his Glynn County, Georgia neighborhood. He was doing just that on February 23, when he was chased down by two white men, who then cornered him with their car and brutally killed him.
Arbery was jogging in the suburban neighborhood of Satilla Shores when he was confronted by 64-year-old Gregory McMichael and his 34-year-old son Travis McMichael. According to The New York Times, the elder McMichael claimed he believed Arbery looked like a suspected burglar.
On the day that he was killed, Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper said she learned of her son’s death from an investigator from the Glynn County Police Department. The detective told Cooper that Arbery had been involved with a burglary and that there was a confrontation with the homeowner. A fight over a gun had ensued, resulting in Arbery’s death
However, the police report on Arbery’s slaying tells a different story. The report says the elder McMichaels grabbed a .357 magnum and a shotgun, got into a pickup truck and chased after Arbery. According to the police report and other documents cited by The New York Times, a third man was also involved.
Gregory claimed to police that he and his son told Arbery, who was unarmed, that they simply wanted to talk. He then went on to allege that Arbery “violently attacked” his son and that the two began to fight over the shotgun “at which point Travis fired a shot and then a second later there was a second shot,” the report said.
A nearly 40-second video of the encounter, which was released by Cooper’s lawyer Lee Merritt, disputes that narrative. The McMichaels are seen blocking the road as Arbery jogs towards them. As he reaches the pickup truck, he attempts to jog around the car but is blocked by one of the men holding a shotgun. Men can be heard shouting when a shot rings out.
Arbery and the man, understood to be Travis McDaniel, can be seen wrestling for the shotgun when a second shot is heard. The two stumble back into view and a third shot goes off. Arbery backs away and stumbles forward before falling to the ground.
In an interview with The North Star’s Shaun King on The Breakdown Live, Cooper described her son as “his brother and sister’s keeper” and a man with a “humble” spirit. “He just didn’t deserve to go like he went,” the distraught mother said.
“Mr. Arbery had not committed any crime and there was no reason for these men to believe they had the right to stop him with weapons or to use deadly force in furtherance of their unlawful attempted stop,” Merritt said in a statement. “This is murder.”
Why Haven’t the McMichaels Been Arrested?
Neither Gregory nor Travis McMichaels have been arrested or charged with Arbery’s chilling shooting death. Following the shooting, the Brunswick judicial district prosecutor recused herself from the case after revealing Gregory McMichael had worked in her office as a district attorney investigator. He also served as a former police detective.
The case was then sent to Waycross district attorney George Barnhill. In a letter cited by The New York Times, Barnhill argued that there was not sufficient probable cause to arrest the McMichaels. He claimed the men were legally carrying their weapons under Georgia’s open carry laws and that they were within their rights to pursue Arbery. He also argued that because Arbery attacked Travis McMichael, the younger McMichael was “allowed to sue deadly force to protect himself.”
Barnhill was eventually forced to recuse himself from the case when Cooper argued there was a conflict of interest given his son works for the Brunswick district attorney. The state attorney general’s office then assigned the case to Tom Durden, a prosecutor in Hinesville, Georgia.
On May 5, Durden said a grand jury will decide if criminal charges will be pursued against the McMichaels. However, that will not occur until at least June 13 since Georgia courts remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Durden did not specify what charges he will have a grand jury consider, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
In his statement, Merritt has called on the men involved to be taken into custody pending their indictment.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced on May 5 that the Glynn County Police Department requested the bureau investigate allegations of threats against GCPD and individuals involved in the case, as well as the public release of the video of Arbery’s shooting. The state bureau later confirmed that Durden formally requested GBI investigate Arbery’s death. On May 6, the GBI announced that three agents were assigned to the case.
In a statement, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said he had viewed the video footage and was ready to support the GBI.
“Based on the video footage and news reports that I have seen, I am deeply concerned with the events surrounding the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery,” Carr wrote. “I expect justice to be carried out as swiftly as possible, and I stand ready to support GBI Director Reynolds, DA Durden and the local community.”
Head to www.RunWithMaud.com and sign the petition to demand that the federal Department of Justice and the FBI investigate and charge white supremacists Gregory and Travis McMichael for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.
Call (770) 800-0689 to be connected to The North Star’s Shaun King, who will guide you through making calls to the different government officials that have the power to bring justice to Ahmaud and his family.
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.