Who is Ahmaud Arbery: Bio, Memorial of the Killing, Lawsuits
|Ahmaud Arbery. Photo: ajc|
In February, Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed, 25-year-old black man, was shot to death while jogging in a neighborhood outside Brunswick, Georgia, after being pursued by two white men in a pickup truck. Neither of his pursuers, a father and son named Gregory and Travis McMichael, were arrested or charged with a crime until May, even though Gregory admitted to police that Travis was responsible for the shooting. Gregory claimed that Arbery resembled a suspect who had committed burglaries in the area, but had no evidence of any wrongdoing by Arbery except the color of his skin. It seemed to many like a clear-cut case of deadly racial profiling. And now, according to attorneys for Arbery’s family, the Department of Justice will investigate the case as a possible hate crime.
On May 7 — more than two months after the shooting — the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced that Gregory and Travis McMichael had been taken into custody and charged with aggravated assault and murder. A statement from the GBI says that “Gregory and Travis McMichael confronted Arbery with two firearms. During the encounter, Travis McMichael shot and killed Arbery.” On May 10, Georgia’s attorney general asked the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct an investigation into how the case was handled. And on May 21, a third person — William “Roddie” Bryan — was arrested in connection with Arbery’s death, and charged with murder and attempted false imprisonment.
Just over a month later, all three men have been indicted on murder charges.
Who was Ahmaud Arbery?
Arbery was a 25-year-old from the Brunswick, Georgia, area, a former star high-school linebacker who liked to stay in shape and was an avid jogger, according to his family. His mother lives a few miles away from the Satilla Shores neighborhood, which is where he was running on the afternoon of Sunday, February 23, at around 1 p.m. He was wearing a white T-shirt, shorts, running shoes, and a bandanna, according to Thecut.
Timeline of the case
October 2019 to early February 2020
The Glynn County Police Department received several trespassing complaints in the Satilla Shores neighborhood. The first one dating back to October 2019 and the most recent one being in February 2020.
Police dispatch reports show Glynn County police received a 911 call at 1:08 p.m. reporting a man on the construction site of a home in the neighborhood, noting there had “been some break-ins in the area lately.”
In a timestamped security camera video, a black male wearing a white shirt and tan shorts is seen walking into a house under construction, across the street from where the surveillance camera is located. That footage is time-stamped 2:08 p.m. It’s not clear why the police dispatch log and the video timestamp reflect times one hour apart.
At 2:13 p.m. on the security camera video, the man comes running out of the unoccupied house and runs down the street. At 2:19 p.m., a police car goes down the street, followed at 2:27 p.m. by an ambulance, fire truck and two additional police cars.
Another video obtained by ABC News from the homeowners shows a man resembling Arbery enter a house under construction and look around, standing in one spot. That video does not have a time stamp, but the homeowners report the it was recorded the day of the shooting.
An attorney for one of the homeowners, Larry English, said nothing was missing from the home.
“That’s completely wrong. I’ve never had a police report or anything stolen from my property, or any kind of robbery,” English told The Washington Post .
Moments after the video was recorded, police said, Greg McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, chased and confronted Arbery, believing he'd been stealing from the home. According to a police report, the men said Travis McMichael got out of their truck with a shotgun, struggled with Arbery and fired multiple shots, killing the 25-year-old.
In the aftermath of the shooting, Brunswick prosecutor Jackie Johnson recused herself from the case to avoid a conflict of interest. Greg McMichael had worked for her office as an investigator.
The case was then given to Ware County prosecutor George E Barnhill. He wrote a letter to Glynn County Police, saying he believed the shooting was justified under self-defense and citizen’s arrest laws in Georgia.
In the letter, Barnhill said Arbery’s mother also saw a point of conflict because Barnhill’s son worked in the same office Greg McMichael had retired from.
Like Johnson, Barnhill recused himself from the case, which was then moved to a third district attorney, Tom Durden of Hinesville.
A video of the deadly shooting was leaked online and creating a national firestorm. Alan Tucker, a Brunswick criminal defense attorney, told First Coast News he released the video. It was initially released anonymously to a Brunswick radio station before spreading across social media.
“The guy who took the video is the one who saw Arbery coming out of the house and said ‘that’s him,’” he told First Coast News.
Tucker said he didn't know if the man who took the video is one of the people who called 911.
Tucker said he thought releasing the video would help tamp down rising tensions surrounding the case.
"My parents live in Satilla Shores," he said, referring to the neighborhood where the shooting happened. "I didn’t want my community to be burned to the ground. This is a mixed community and they don’t deserve this."
He told First Coast News he was tired of all the "bullsh*t opinions" about the case.
The story went on to gain attention from celebrities.
Jay-Z's Roc Nation later wrote an open letter calling justice. LeBron James tweeted about the shooting, saying, "We’re literally hunted every day/every time we step foot outside the comfort of our homes! Can’t even go for a damn jog man!"
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested both Greg and Travis McMichael on charges of murder and aggravated assault in the shooting death of Arbery.
Georgia's Attorney General Chris Carr requested the U.S. Department of Justice conduct an investigation into the handling of the case.
“We are committed to a complete and transparent review of how the Ahmaud Arbery case was handled from the outset,” Carr said. “The family, the community and the state of Georgia deserve answers, and we will work with others in law enforcement at the state and federal level to find those answers.”
The investigation includes looking into communication by and between the Brunswick and Waycross district attorneys.
For Carr's full statement and the response from Arbery's family's attorneys, click here.
Cobb County DA Joyette Holmes is assigned the case, marking the fourth district attorney to take it on. In a statement, Holmes' office said the call to handle Arbery's death will not be taken lightly.
“Our office will immediately gather all materials related to the investigation thus far and continue to seek additional information to move this case forward,” she said according to Firstcoastnews.
Dial outlined events that led to Arbery's death and said that before Arbery was shot, the three men charged in his murder engaged in an elaborate chase, hitting the 25-year-old jogger with a truck as he tried to escape them, CNN reported.
Asked whether he believed McMichael could've been acting in self-defense, Dial said the opposite was true.
"I believe Mr. Arbery was being pursued, and he ran till he couldn't run anymore, and it turned his back to a man with a shotgun or fight with his bare hands against the man with the shotgun. He chose to fight," he said. "I believe Mr. Arbery's decision was to just try to get away, and when he felt like he could not escape he chose to fight."
As Travis and Gregory McMichael attempted to head him off, Arbery turned and ran past the truck of Bryan, who recorded the killing, and Bryan struck Arbery with the side of his truck, Dial said.
Bryan told police that at one point he thought Arbery was trying to enter his truck, Dial said, adding that he didn't know whether that was true but he felt Arbery was trying to escape.
Investigators found a swipe from a palm print on the rear door of Bryan's truck, cotton fibers near the truck bed that "we attribute to contact with Mr. Arbery" and a dent below the fibers, he said.
Bryan was working on his porch, defense attorney Kevin Gough countered, and his client didn't know what the McMichaels were doing.
Bryan "sees someone he doesn't know followed by a truck that he does. He does, with all due respect, what any patriotic American would have done under the same circumstances," Gough said.
Demands for justice for Arbery mount
The lack of justice in the months since Arbery's death has led to protests.
After the video of Arbery's death went online on May 5, more than 100 people carried signs and prayed in the streets where Arbery died, WJAX-TV, a CBS affiliate in Jacksonville, Florida, reported.
Glynn County Sheriff Neal Jump was among those who expressed their anguish at the situation.
"Am I upset that it has taken this long for a verdict or the justice part to come? As the sheriff, I am upset," he said at the protest. "It shouldn't have taken that long. If that was my son, I'd be upset. I can only imagine what the mother and dad are going through."
The case is being closely watched across the nation.
Former President Donald Trump offered condolences to the Arbery family and addressed the case on Fox News, saying, "I saw the tape, and it's very, very disturbing."
"It's a heartbreaking thing. It's very rough, rough stuff," he said, adding: "Justice getting done is the thing that solves that problem. And again, it's in the hands of the governor, and I'm sure he'll do the right thing."
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, also spoke out on Arbery's behalf, while the NBA star LeBron James expressed anguish that people of color were "literally hunted every day."
For some in the black community, Arbery's death struck a different note — one of racial terror, according to AP.
It reminded them of the 1955 kidnapping and lynching of Emmett Till, a black 14-year-old from Chicago, who was ultimately tossed in a river amid false allegations of whistling at a white woman. The white men who killed Till were acquitted by an all-white jury.
A protester, Anthony Johnson, told the AP he believes Arbery "died because he was black like the rest of them did. For no reason."
Arbery's case has fueled widespread anger.
The supermodel Padma Lakshmi had tweeted the Glynn County Police Department's phone number so people could demand that Gregory and Travis McMichael be taken into custody, Insider cited.
The mother of Ahmaud Arbery filed a lawsuit on Tuesday alleging an attempt by police and prosecutors to "cover up" her son's murder. The suit comes exactly one year after Arbery was allegedly cornered and shot by a group of civilian men.
On February 23, 2020, Arbery was jogging through a Brunswick neighborhood when he stopped at a construction site for a drink of water or to rest, the complaint said. As he continued his run, he was then allegedly pursued and then cornered by Gregory McMichael and his son Travis, who are both White. A third man, William Bryan, is also accused of boxing Arbery in with his truck before Travis shot him three times.
More than two months after Arbery's death, the McMichaels were arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault. The McMichaels told police they were acting in self-defense and believed Arbery was a burglary suspect. Bryan, who was charged with felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment, has maintained he was only a witness to the shooting.
The civil complaint details the alleged illegal actions that took place before and after Arbery's death. According to the complaint, after receiving several calls from the construction site's owner about trespassing on the property, Glynn County police "deputized" the McMichaels, Bryan, and one other man to act as law enforcement officials in regards to the site. As a result, police allegedly began passing the owner's complaints on to the men and instructed the owner of the site to call Gregory McMichael "day or night" with trespassing concerns.
The complaint claims the alleged deputization of the three men led to them feeling emboldened to pursue Arbery on February 23 without waiting for law enforcement to intervene.
The complaint further alleges that a Glynn County police cover up began "the moment" law enforcement arrived on the scene of Arbery's death. Despite seeing Arbery's bleeding body on the ground, the complaint said, police did not arrest any of the men.
"The Glynn County Police Department failed to make arrests at the scene of the murder because it had encouraged and ratified Defendants Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and Bryan's illegal and unconstitutional conduct," the complaint alleged.
An attorney representing Bryan told CBS News, "The filing of the civil lawsuit, seeking money damages 'in excess of a million dollars' was not unexpected. … The civil suit, like the criminal case, will show that Mr. Bryan acted within the law." Cbsnews noted.
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