Recorded on cellphone video fatally shooting an unarmed black man jogging down the street, a former Georgia police officer and his son were arrested and charged with murder. Before the video was released to the public, the district attorney refused to charge the ex-cop and his son despite killing an innocent man.
“On February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery was in the Satilla Shores neighborhood in Brunswick, GA when both Gregory and Travis McMichael confronted Arbery with two firearms,” the Georgia Bureau of Investigation wrote in a recent press release. “During the encounter, Travis McMichael shot and killed Arbery.”
According to 911 calls, a man can be heard telling the dispatcher, “There’s a black male running down the street.”
When asked if the male was committing a crime, the man responded, “No.”
As Arbery jogged through the neighborhood, McMichael and his son, Travis, grabbed their firearms and pursued Arbery in a white pickup truck as Bryan William followed them while recording on his cellphone. In the video, Arbery attempted to run around the truck as McMichael aimed his shotgun at him.
According to a memo from Waycross District Attorney George Barnhill, McMichael shot Arbery in the right hand as Arbery attempted to disarm McMichael. The second shot was reportedly fired as they struggled over the weapon. And the third bullet killed Arbery, who was unarmed.
In the memo, Barnhill attempted to justify the killing by writing, “It appears Travis
McMichael, Greg McMichael, and Bryan William were following, in ‘hot pursuit’, a burglary suspect, with solid first hand probable cause, in their neighborhood, and asking/telling him to stop. It appears their intent was to stop and hold this criminal suspect until law enforcement arrived. Under Georgia Law, this is perfectly legal,
OCGA17-4-60 ‘A private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge. If the offense is a felony and the offender is escaping or attempting to escape, a private person may arrest him upon reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion.’”
But according to family members, Arbery was an avid runner who loved to go jogging as often as he could. And even the 911 calls confirmed that Arbery was not committing any crime prior to his untimely death.
McMichael reportedly told police that Arbery looked like a suspected burglar who had recently broken into several houses in the neighborhood. But the Glynn County Police Department said Thursday that it had no reports involving burglaries or home break-ins in the Satilla Shores neighborhood between Jan. 1 and Feb. 23.
Barnhill’s argument does not hold up because McMichael never saw Arbery committing “an offense in his presence or within his immediate knowledge.” McMichael, a former Glynn County Police Department detective, also worked as an investigator for the Brunswick District Attorney’s Office, where Barnhill’s son worked.
“The vigilante behavior that we saw in Brunswick is unacceptable in a civilized society. We call on the officials in Brunswick to enforce the rule of law so that it can be safe for citizens to walk the streets,” said Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, in a recent statement. “Ahmaud was killed three days before the anniversary of the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin. Both incidents are a reminder that white supremacy has been a foundation for our country and leads repeatedly to the targeting and harming people of color, particularly African Americans.”
Referring to the video of her son’s death, Wanda Cooper-Jones told ABC News, “I don’t think I’ll ever be in a mental state where I can actually watch the video. I had others that watched it that shared what they saw and that just was enough.”
On Wednesday, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced that McMichael and his son had been arrested and charged with the murder and aggravated assault of Ahmaud Arbery. The McMichaels were taken into custody and booked into the Glynn County Jail.