A grand jury has returned indictments on the three suspects in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a young black man who was accosted and shot dead as he went for a jog in a Georgia town, US media has reported.
The killing sparked widespread outrage and has since become a key part of an intense national debate around racism and police killings of Black people in America.
Prosecutor Joyette Holmes said the Glynn county grand jury had indicted the three on charges including malice and felony murder in the death of the African American man.
Arbery was slain 23 February when the Greg and Travis McMichael, a white father and son, armed themselves and pursued the 25-year-old Black man running through their neighborhood. Greg McMichael told police he suspected Arbery was a burglar and that Arbery attacked his son before being shot.
Bryan lives in the same subdivision, just outside the port city of Brunswick. Bryan said he saw the McMichaels driving by and joined the chase, a Georgia bureau of investigation agent testified earlier this month.
It wasn’t until 7 May, two days after Bryan’s cellphone video leaked online and stirred a national outcry, that the McMichaels were arrested by local police. Bryan was arrested on 22 May, and an arrest warrant said he tried “to confine and detain” Arbery without legal authority by “utilizing his vehicle on multiple occasions” before Arbery was shot.
In addition to malice murder and felony murder charges, the McMichaels and Bryan each are charged with two counts of aggravated assault and one count each of false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
Earlier this month a state investigator in Georgia alleged Travis McMichael was heard saying a racial slur as he stood over the mortally wounded man, moments after hitting him with three shots from a pump-action shotgun.
Arbery’s death has become a rallying cry in the protests that have rocked the US – and abroad – after the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis. The death of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman shot dead by police in Louisville, Kentucky, has also been a case highlighted by the protests.
Civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump, who has worked with the family of Arbery, the family of George Floyd and the families of other high-profile police killings, said of the grand jury decision: “This confirms what Ahmaud’s father has been saying for months, that this was a lynching. This is a significant step on the road to justice and while nothing will bring back Ahmaud’s life, it is important that a grand jury recognized his life had value and was wrongly and ruthlessly ended.”