Murder of Ahmaud Arbery

Coordinates: 31°07′25″N 81°33′23″W / 31.1236°N 81.5563°W / 31.1236; -81.5563
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Shooting of Ahmaud Arbery
DateFebruary 23, 2020; 4 years ago (2020-02-23)
LocationUnincorporated Glynn County, Georgia, U.S.
Coordinates31°07′25″N 81°33′23″W / 31.1236°N 81.5563°W / 31.1236; -81.5563[1]
  • Ahmaud Arbery
  • Gregory McMichael
  • Travis McMichael
DeathsAhmaud Arbery
Chargesfelony murder and aggravated assault[2]

Ahmaud Arbery was a 25-year-old African American man. On February 23, 2020, three white men chased him in trucks and shot him while he was running in Satilla Shores near the town of Brunswick in Georgia.[3] His death became famous because a video of the shooting on the internet, because of an #IRunWithMaud Twitter campaign, because there was a long delay before the men who shot him were arrested, and because his death and their arrests happened around the same time as the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the Black Lives Matter protests. Floyd and Taylor are African Americans who were killed by police.

The three men who chased Arbery were charged with many crimes, including murder. Their hearings and trials were delayed many times because of the COVID-19 pandemic.[4] On November 24, 2021, all three men were found guilty of murder in a Georgia state court.[5] They were sentenced to life in prison.[6] In February 2022, all three men were found guilty of hate crimes in a United States federal court.

Shooting[change | change source]

On February 23, Gregory McMichael, 64 years old, and his son Travis, 34 years old, saw Arbery running through the neighborhood. They said they thought he looked like the same man who had been breaking into houses nearby. They got their guns and got into their truck to chase Arbery. Another man, William Bryan, came with them in his own car. There was some kind of fight, during which Arbery was shot and killed. According to the Georgia Board of Investigation, Travis, not Gregory, shot Arbery.[7] Gregory McMichael said that Arbery had attacked Travis.[8] According to Arbery's family and friends, he was running for exercise and was in Santilla Shores because he lived nearby.[7][9]

People involved[change | change source]

  • Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man.
  • George McMichael, 64, a former police officer.
  • Travis McMichael, 34, George McMichael's son.
  • William "Roddy" Bryan, another man who recorded a video of the shooting.[10]

Arrests and hearings[change | change source]

On May 5, a video showing the shooting was released to the public.[3][8] Gregory and Travis McMichael were arrested on May 7.[11][7] The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) both said it was bad that it had taken so long. The McMichaels are both white.

The McMichaels and William Bryan had their first hearing at Glynn County Magistrate Court on June 4, 2020. They appeared by video instead of in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Judge Wallace E. Harrell said there was enough evidence for all three men to go to trial.[12][13]

On June 24, 2020, District Attorney Holmes told the public that a grand jury had indicted all three men on nine crimes: one count each of malice murder (intentional murder), false imprisonment, criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment, two counts of aggravated assault and four counts of felony murder. The highest possible punishment for these crimes is life in prison without parole.[4]

On July 17, all three men pleaded not guilty. Chatham County Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley decided not to release William Bryan on bail because he was worried Bryan would run away.[14][15][16] The Georgia Bureau of Investigation also investigated Bryan for sex crimes.[17]

On November 13, a judge denied bail for Gregory and Travis McMichaels. This means they stayed in jail until their trial. They could not return home or prepare for their trial outside of jail.[18]

Delay[change | change source]

On February 23, Prosecutor George E. Barnhill wrote a letter to the Glynn County police saying he thought the police should not arrest the McMichaels. He said they had been in "hot pursuit" of Arbery, that they had a good reason to believe Arbery had committed a crime, and had told him out loud to stop running. In Georgia, it is legal for ordinary people to stop and hold a suspected criminal until the police arrive.[10][19]

As of mid-May, four district attorneys had worked on this case one after the other.[20] Because Gregory McMichael had worked as a police officer and worked for the Brunswick district attorney's office, it was difficult to find a district attorney who could charge McMichael with a crime.[3] In the United States, prosecutors are not allowed to prosecute people they know, only strangers. The first two, Jackie Johnson and George E. Barnhill, both recused themselves, meaning they willingly left the case, because they or someone they knew had worked with one Gregory McMichael.[19]

The third prosecutor to work on the case, Tom Durden, came from Georgia's Atlantic Judicial Circuit. On May 5, he asked the Georgia Board of Investigation to find the facts.[11] Durden decided to begin criminal processes against the McMichaels later that week.[3]

On May 7, 2020, Gregory and Travis McMichael were arrested and brought to a Georgia jail.[7] They were charged with felony murder and aggravated assault.[2]

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of Georgia decided not to have any more grand juries until June 2020.[3] In the United States, a grand jury decides whether a suspected criminal should have a trial. They decide this by looking at the evidence to see if there is enough. If they say yes, the suspects have a trial. If they say no, the suspects go free.[21]

On May 11, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr put district attorney Joyette M. Holmes on the case. She was the fourth district attorney to work on the Ahmaud Arbery shooting case.[22]

Travis McMichael hired the lawyers Bob Rubin and Jason Sheffield and Gregory McMichael hired Laura Hogue and Frank Hogue. Both sets of lawyers asked the public not to make decisions too soon.[23]

Law[change | change source]

Before recusing himself, Barnhill said it is legal in Georgia for the McMichaels to take their guns and chase someone if they believe that person is a criminal trying to escape being caught, but the crime must be a felony, or large crime.[24] It is also legal for them to defend themselves if that person attacks them.[19]

The law reads: "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."[24] This is called a citizen's arrest law.

Gregory McMichael said that he and his son chased Arbery because he looked like a thief from a string of break-ins that had happened nearby, but the local police said that there had not been a string of break-ins.[20]

If Arbery entered a house but left without stealing anything or harming anyone, then he might be guilty of trespassing, which is a misdemeanor crime, or small crime, but not a felony crime.[20][24]

Video[change | change source]

The video that appeared May 5 was filmed from a moving car or truck that was following the McMichaels' white truck. The video shows a black man running on the right side of the truck. Then he crosses in front of the truck and cannot be seen. Then there is some kind of fight, and three gunshots. Then the black man falls to the ground.[25]

William "Roddy" Bryan recorded the video.[26] He gave a copy to the police and then gave a copy to a lawyer named Alan Tucker.[25] Tucker later gave the video to the radio station WGIG. The people at WGIG said it was from an anonymous source.[25]

On May 8, Alan Tucker said he was the one who gave the video to the radio station. The McMichaels had talked to Tucker about Tucker working as their lawyer, which he later decided not to do because he knew Gregory McMichael from his work.[25] Tucker said he gave the video to WGIG so people could see exactly what happened. "It wasn't two men with a Confederate flag in the back of a truck going down the road and shooting a jogger in the back. It got the truth out there as to what you could see," said Tucker. "My purpose was not to exonerate them or convict them."

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation began to investigate William Bryan. A lawyer for Arbery's family said that Bryan must have been helping the McMichaels chase Arbery. In a police report made the day of the shooting, Gregory McMichael told a Glynn County police officer that Bryan had tried to stop Arbery from running away from them.[10] In late May, Bryan was arrested and charged with criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment and felony murder. Under U.S. law, that means that if Bryan was helping the McMichaels commit a serious crime, then deaths that happened during that crime are Bryan's fault as well, even if he did not shoot anyone himself.[27][28] In May, another video taken on February 23 was released to the public. It showed Arbery[23] entering a house under construction, looking around, and leaving. The man who owned the house, Larry English, told CNN that nothing had been stolen.[20]

Protests[change | change source]

On May 8, thousands of people ran 2.23 miles (2 for the month of February and .23 for the 23rd day of February, the date Arbery died).[25] May 8 is Arbery's birthday, and he would have turned 26 years old if he had not died.[29] Many of the runners posted the hashtag #IRunWithMaud on social media. Jason Vaughn and Akeem Baker invented the hashtag. Vaughn was the running coach at Arbery's high school and Baker was Arbery's friend. They both said Arbery was an excellent runner and racer.

In June, at the same time as the George Floyd protests, the Georgia NAACP planned a March on Georgia. Thousands of people marched to the Georgia state capitol building to stop police brutality. The marchers also said they were marching because Georgia had made it harder for black people to vote by closing so many voting places that the ones that were left had very long lines, because they think Georgia's citizens arrest laws are unfair, because of the killings of Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.[30] The Georgia citizens arrest law is what the McMichaels claim made it legal for them to chase and try to stop Arbery.

Autopsy[change | change source]

The state of Georgia performed an autopsy on Ahmaud Arbery's body. They found he had been shot twice in the chest and once on his wrist and had not taken any drugs or alcohol.[20] The autopsy report said Arbery had died in a homicide, meaning a killing of one human by other humans.[22]

Aftermath[change | change source]

On June 24, after the shooting but before any trials, the Georgia State Senate passed a law against hate crimes. Many American states already had hate crime laws, but Georgia did not.[31] Hate crime laws make it a separate, additional crime to harm someone because of what group they belong to or look like they belong to.[4]

The court cannot use the Georgia state hate crime law in the Arbery case because it was made after the crime happened. The United States does not allow ex post facto laws. That is, it does not allow anyone to be punished for something that was not a crime when they did it.

The United States' federal government has its own hate crime law. The three men are charged with hate crimes "on the federal level." That means that the hate crime trials are being run by the main government of the country, not by the state of Georgia.

Trials[change | change source]

At first, no date was set for the trials of Arbery's killers. This was because of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. McMichael, McMichael and Bryan waited for their trials in jail.[32] On October 18, 2021, jury selection for the trial began.[33] The jury would have eleven white people and one black person. The trial lasted about two weeks. Lawyers for the three men said that they were only protecting their neighborhood. They said the accused men thought Arbery was dangerous. Travis McMichael got on the stand and spoke to the jury, saying he shot Arbery in self-defense. On November 24, the jury found all three men guilty on most of the counts, including felony murder.[5]

Judge Timothy R. Walmsley gave the sentences (punishments) on January 7, 2022. Travis and Gregory McMichael were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. William Bryan was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Bryan must be in prison for 30 years before he may ask for parole.[6]

All three men are allowed to appeal, to ask the State of Georgia to change or stop their punishments at the Georgia Supreme Court. All three men are also to go on trial at the federal level.[6]

Federal hate crime trial[change | change source]

On January 31, 2022, Travis McMichael offered to plead guilty to federal hate crimes. In exchange, lawyers for the government said he could spend the first 30 years of his sentence in a federal prison, then go to a Georgia state prison. However, Judge Lisa Godbey Wood of the U.S. District Court said no. It is very unusual for a judge to refuse a plea deal that prosecutors have made with a defendant. This means McMichael would go on trial for hate crimes.[34] [35] [36]

On February 22, 2022, a jury said all three men were guilty of federal hate crimes.[37][38][39]

References[change | change source]

  1. Hobbs, Larry. "Protesters 'Run with Maud' In Satilla Shores". The Brunswick News. Retrieved May 8, 2020. Arbery died in the street at Satilla Drive and Buford Road
  2. 2.0 2.1 Jade Abdul-Malik (May 8, 2020). "LISTEN: 911 Dispatcher Doesn't Understand What Arbery Is 'Doing Wrong'". GPB News. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Richard Fausset (May 7, 2020). "Ahmaud Arbery's Killing Will Go to Grand Jury as Graphic Video Emerges". New York Times. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Richard Fausset (June 24, 2020). "Suspects in Ahmaud Arbery's Killing Are Indicted on Murder Charges". New York Times. Retrieved June 25, 2020.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Merrit Kennedy; Jaclyn Diaz (November 24, 2021). "3 white men are found guilty of murder in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery". NPR. Retrieved November 24, 2021.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Richard Fausset (January 7, 2022). "Three Men Sentenced to Life in Prison in Arbery Killing". New York Times. Retrieved January 7, 2022.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Richard Fausset (May 8, 2020). "2 Suspects Charged With Murder in Ahmaud Arbery Shooting". New York Times. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Khushbu Shah (May 7, 2020). "Ahmaud Arbery: former police officer and son charged in shooting of black jogger". Guardian. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  9. "Video shows killing of Ahmaud Arbery". Al Jazeera. May 10, 2020. Archived from the original on May 10, 2020. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Richard Fausset; Rick Rojas (May 18, 2020). "Man Who Filmed the Arbery Killing Faces Calls for Arrest". New York Times. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Ahmaud Arbery Murder Investigation" (Press release). Georgia Bureau of Investigation. May 9, 2020. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  12. Richard Fausset (June 4, 2020). "Judge Finds Probable Cause for Murder Charges in Arbery Case". New York Times. Retrieved June 4, 2020.
  13. Eliott C. McLaughlin (June 4, 2020). "Ahmaud Arbery was hit with a truck before he died, and his killer allegedly used a racial slur, investigator testifies". CNN. Retrieved June 4, 2020.
  14. James Doubek (July 17, 2020). "Men Charged With Murder Of Ahmaud Arbery Plead Not Guilty". NPR. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  15. WTOC staff (July 7, 2020). "3 men charged in Ahmaud Arbery case due back in court". WTOC. Retrieved July 8, 2020.
  16. Naomi Dockery (July 7, 2020). "Suspects In Ahmaud Arbery Case Set For Bond Hearing". WLTZ. Archived from the original on July 8, 2020. Retrieved July 8, 2020.
  17. Kailey Tracy (July 17, 2020). "Three suspects in Ahmaud Arbery murder case plead not guilty in court Friday, no bond set for any of them". First Coast News. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  18. Vanessa Romo (November 13, 2020). "Father And Son Charged With Murder In Ahmaud Arbery Killing Are Denied Bond". NPR. Retrieved November 14, 2020.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 "Letter from George Barnhill to Captain Jump" (PDF). Retrieved May 8, 2020 – via New York Times.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 Christima Maxouris (May 13, 2020). "Homeowner says no crime was committed at under-construction home Ahmaud Arbery may have visited before shooting". CNN. Retrieved May 13, 2020.
  21. Nisha Chittal (December 5, 2014). "6 of your questions about grand juries, answered". MSNBC. Retrieved May 13, 2020.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Richard Fausset; Rick Rojas (May 12, 2020). "Autopsy Shows Ahmaud Arbery Was Shot Twice in the Chest". New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2020.
  23. 23.0 23.1 "Men accused in Ahmaud Arbery shooting hire attorneys". CBS. May 15, 2020. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Elliot C. McLaughlin (May 12, 2020). "What we know about Ahmaud Arbery's killing". CNN. Retrieved May 14, 2020.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 25.4 Sarah Mervosh (May 8, 2020). "Ahmaud Arbery Video Was Leaked by a Lawyer Who Consulted With Suspects". New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  26. "Man who recorded Ahmaud Arbery shooting speaks out: "Complete shock"". CBS. May 11, 2020. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  27. "The killing of Ahmaud Arbery". Guardian. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 25, 2020.
  28. Angela Barajas; Steve Almasy; Erica Henry (May 22, 2020). "Man who recorded the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery has been arrested, GBI says". CNN. Retrieved May 25, 2020.
  29. Jacey Fortin (May 8, 2020). "On Ahmaud Arbery's Birthday, Thousands Say #IRunWithMaud". New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  30. Brakkton Booker (June 15, 2020). "Hundreds March On Georgia Capitol As Legislature Reconvenes". NPR. Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  31. Erin Donaghue (June 19, 2020). "Georgia's lieutenant governor proposes new hate crimes bill, igniting new concerns over passage". CBS. Retrieved June 20, 2020.
  32. Bill Rankin (October 4, 2020). "State wants racist posts in evidence to show motive in Arbery case". Atlanta Journal - Constitution. Retrieved October 5, 2020.
  33. Joe Hernandez (October 18, 2021). "Jury selection has begun in the trial of the 3 men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery". NPR. Retrieved October 18, 2021.
  34. "Judge rejects a plea deal on federal hate crime charges in Arbery's murder". NPR. February 1, 2022. Retrieved February 1, 2022.
  35. Jonathan Allen (January 31, 2022). "In rare move, U.S. judge rejects plea agreement by Ahmaud Arbery's murderers". Reuters. Retrieved February 1, 2022.
  36. Russ Bynum (January 31, 2022). "Judge rejects plea deal for man who killed Ahmaud Arbery". Associated Press. Retrieved February 1, 2022.
  37. Phil McCausland (February 22, 2022). "Guilty verdict in federal hate crime trial in Ahmaud Arbery's death". NBC. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
  38. Jonathan Raymond (February 22, 2022). "Only Black man on jury reads out emotional verdict in hate crimes case of killing of Ahmaud Arbery". 11 Alive. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
  39. Ryan Young (February 22, 2022). "Emotions were high in the courtroom as the verdict was read in the hate crimes trial for Arbery's killers". CNN. Retrieved February 22, 2022.