Georgia's Attorney General Said He Will Look Into How Officials Handled Ahmaud Arbery's Murder
The state attorney general said Arbery's family and community "deserve answers." His alleged killers were only charged after video of the shooting was released, months after his death.
Georgia's attorney general said Saturday that there will be an investigation into how local officials handled Ahmaud Arbery's murder, following national outcry over his fatal shooting at the hands of two white men.
"I will be looking into how the #AhmaudArbery case was handled from the outset," Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr tweeted Saturday. "The family, the community and the state of Georgia deserve answers. We need to know exactly what happened, and we will be working to find those answers."
Arbery was shot and killed by two white men while out jogging in Brunswick, Georgia on Feb. 23, but his death did not make national headlines until cell phone video of the violent incident was released last week.
After days of outrage from the public, Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34, were charged Thursday with murder and aggravated assault.
The widely-shared video of the incident shows 25-year-old Arbery jogging on a two-lane road in Brunswick when he was stopped by the McMichaels in a pick-up truck. The video shows Arbery and one of the men struggling over a shotgun while another stands in the bed of the truck. Three gunshots are heard off-camera, and Arbery attempts to walk away but collapses in front of the truck.
The two men have told police that they believed Arbery was a burglar. According to a Glynn County police report of the incident, Gregory McMichael told police there were break-ins in the neighborhood and he had seen Arbery "hauling ass" on the street. The report, which is almost entirely based on Gregory McMichael's account, says Gregory called for his son, Travis, and told him, "the guy is running down the street, let's go."
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Friday that the man who filmed Arbery's killing, William "Roddie" Bryan, was also being investigated.
According to the police report of the shooting, Bryan followed the McMichaels in his own vehicle as they chased Arbery down the road. The police report states that Bryan — referred to as "Roddy" in the report —"attempted to block" Arbery when he tried to run back in the direction he came from after Travis McMichael attempted to cut him off in his vehicle.
Attorneys representing Arbery's family said the video of his killing shows that the two men had no reason to stop and shoot him "at point-blank range," and that Arbery had made several attempts to avoid the men.
"There was no reason for these men to believe they had the right to stop him with weapons, or to use deadly force," attorney S. Lee Merritt, who is representing the family, said in a statement. "This is murder."
Merritt also referred to Bryan as a "suspect" who "conspired" with the McMichaels to kill Arbery and has called for his arrest.
“These men were vigilantes, they were a posse ... performing a lynching in the middle of the day," he said at a press conference Wednesday.
The shooting has led to widespread protests around the country as people demand justice for Arbery.
On Tuesday, Tom Durden, a district attorney for the Atlantic Judicial Circuit of Georgia who was assigned to review the case, formally requested the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) investigate Arbery's death, according to the agency.
Durden is the third prosecutor assigned to the case after the first two each recused themselves due to their connections Gregory McMichael, who is a former Glynn County police officer and former investigator with the Brunswick district attorney's office.
The second district attorney assigned to the case, Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill, recused himself in a letter stating that his son and Gregory had previously prosecuted Arbery. The letter, sent to Attorney General Carr's office, did not specify what the prior prosecution was for or when it took place, and Carr's office declined to comment further when reached.
Durden has said he will present the case to a grand jury after coronavirus-related restrictions in the state are lifted.
New details about the circumstances under which the video was released raised more questions about officials' handling of the incident.
Local attorney Alan Tucker, who released the video of the shooting, said his firm wasn't representing anyone in the case, but that he released the video for "absolute transparency because my community was being ripped apart by erroneous accusations and assumptions."
The GBI said Saturday that it was reviewing additional video from the incident. Home security video obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows a man who appears to be Arbery entering a construction site about a block from where he was killed, just minutes before his death. The video shows the man walking into the garage of a house under construction, and then walking around the back of the house.
"We are indeed reviewing additional video footage and photographs as part of the active case," the GBI said in a press release Saturday. "It is important to note that this footage was reviewed at the beginning of the GBI investigation and before the arrests of Gregory and Travis McMichael."
The video appears to show what a 911 caller described the afternoon Arbery was killed, with the witness reporting that a man was seen in the house, and then seen running out of it and down the street.
On Friday, which would have been Arbery's 26th birthday, many across the country ran 2.23 miles in recognition of the date he was killed, and posted a message with the hashtag #IRunWithMaud.