Ahmaud Arbery: former police officer and son charged in shooting of black jogger

By Khushbu Shah

The two men involved in the killing of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery as he jogged through his neighborhood just outside of Brunswick, Georgia, in February have been charged with murder and aggravated assault.

Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34, were taken into custody and booked into the Glynn County Jail, the Georgia Bureau of Investigations announced in a news release Thursday evening. The arrest comes after a video released this week showed an unarmed Arbery, who is black, confronted by the elder McMichael, a former county police officer, and his son, who shot Arbery seconds later.

The shooting took place more than two months ago on 23 February, and family members have expressed outrage and anger that the two men had not been charged. The incidents around the shooting remained unclear until an anonymous witness leaked a 36-second video including the moment of Arbery’s death.

According to a police report filed that day, the two McMichaels grabbed their weapons, a .357 Magnum revolver and a shotgun, jumped into a truck and followed Arbery as he ran. In the same police report, they tell police Arbery matched the description of someone caught on a security camera committing a recent burglary in the neighborhood. Gregory McMichael told police Arbery violently attacked his son, which contradicts the footage.

Arbery’s family has called for immediate arrests after the video was released this week. Celebrities and politicians, from LeBron James to Democratic candidate and former vice-president Joe Biden, expressed outrage and called for action. Until the footage was released this week, no charges or arrests had taken place.

“I’m still in tears,” said Chris Stewart on Thursday evening after he heard the news. Stewart, who represents Arbery’s family, is a civil rights attorney who is working with the team of lawyers representing the family, including Lee Merritt and Ben Crump.

The family is overjoyed, Stewart told the Guardian.

Two prosecutors have recused themselves from the case since the shooting, citing professional relationships with the older McMichael. Neighboring Liberty county district attorney Tim Durden, the third prosecutor assigned to the case, formally requested an investigation by GBI on 5 May, after the video was released. They initiated an investigation on 6 May, leading to an arrest Thursday evening.

Soon after the video was released, Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp and the state’s attorney general Chris Carr called for swift action. Kemp called the shooting “absolutely horrific” in a press conference Thursday.

The Glynn county police department never requested an independent investigation of the incident and did not charge anyone in the incident.

Thursday, the Guardian obtained two 911 calls, where an unidentified caller tells the dispatcher: “There’s a black male running down the street.” In another call, a different dispatcher asks another caller to explain what Arbery has done that is wrong.

“It’s not over,” says Stewart. “This is the beginning. A lot of times, African Americans can’t even get to step one of justice.”

“We were absolutely elated to hear of the arrest with it being so long overdue. It was refreshing and exhilarating at the same time,” said Pastor John Perry, the president of the Brunswick chapter of the NAACP. “But the arrest doesn’t end in justice for Ahmaud. We need to see a conviction.”

The McMichaels were approached for comment prior to their arrest but have not responded.