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- Ahmaud Arbery, a black man, was jogging in his Georgia neighborhood on February 23 when he was killed in a shooting after Gregory and Travis McMichael, a father and son, chased him.
- The McMichaels mistook Arbery, who was unarmed, to be a suspect from a string of neighborhood break-ins, a police report said.
- A video of the chase and shooting caused outrage after being shared on social media.
- “I don’t think that I’ll ever reach the mental capacity to ever watch the video,” his mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones said of the footage.
- Gregory and Travis McMichael were arrested for Arbery’s murder on May 7.
- #IRunWithMaud is trending on social media, with thousands signing up to run 2.23 miles — marking the day of Arbery’s death — on Friday.
- In the two months since Arbery died, two district attorneys have recused themselves over potential conflicts of interest, with the latest saying he will present the case to a grand jury after the pandemic lockdown ends.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Friday would have been Ahmaud Arbery’s 26th birthday.
Arbery, a black man, was out running in his neighborhood outside Brunswick, Georgia, around 1 p.m. on February 23.
He was followed and gunned down by a 64-year-old former police officer, Gregory McMichael, and his 34-year-old son, Travis McMichael — both of whom are white.
The shooting was captured on video by a witness in a nearby car, Reuters reported. The shocking footage has been shared widely on social media and has prompted a wave of protests and demands for justice.
Gregory and Travis McMichael were arrested for Arbery’s murder on May 7.
Here’s everything we know about the case.
A local police report describes how the McMichaels chased Arbery and shots were fired after a struggle
A Glynn County police report describes how Arbery was shot after struggling with Travis McMichael over his shotgun.
His father told responding officer J. Brandeberry that Arbery caught their attention because he resembled a man accused of a rash of residential break-ins. The two decided to grab their guns and chase him, he said.
“McMichael stated he was in his front yard and saw the suspect from the break-ins ‘hauling ass’ down Satilla Drive toward Burford Drive,” Brandeberry’s report says.
“McMichael stated he then ran inside his house and called to Travis (McMichael) and said, ‘Travis, the guy is running down the street, let’s go,'” the report continues. “McMichael stated he went to his bedroom and grabbed his .357 Magnum and Travis grabbed his shotgun because they ‘didn’t know if the male was armed or not.”
Jumping into their white pickup truck, the pair chased Arbery and tried to block his path at one location, but he turned around and jogged away, the report said. They pursued him, with Gregory McMichael shouting “stop stop, we want to talk to you,” the report said, before pulling up near Arbery.
At that point, Travis got out of the vehicle with his shotgun, according to the report. Gregory McMichael said Arbery “began to violently attack Travis,” according to the report.
“The two men then started fighting over the shotgun at which point Travis fired a shot and then a second later there was a second shot,” the report said. “McMichael stated the male fell face down on the pavement with his hand under his body.”
Gregory McMichael said he rolled the man over to see if he had a weapon. He did not.
When he arrived on the scene, Brandeberry observed that Gregory McMichael had blood on his hands from rolling over the body.
Gregory and Travis McMichael were arrested for Arbery’s murder on May 7. Both men have been charged with murder and aggravated assault and were taken into custody.
‘They were performing a lynching in the middle of the day’
Arbery — who wasn’t a criminal suspect, but was a former athlete — died from his wounds. He was buried at New Springfield Baptist Church in Alexander, Georgia, on February 29.
His obituary described him as “humble, kind and well mannered,” and someone who “always made sure he never departed from his loved ones without an ‘I Love You.'” He enjoyed telling jokes and spending time with his family and friends, and had a “smile that would light up a room.”
Arbery was also a sports fan; basketball and football were his favorites. On the football field, his jersey number was 21, “which was passed down from his older brother, Marcus, Jr,” his obituary said, noting that he studied at Brunswick High School and South Georgia Technical College.
Arbery’s parents, Wanda Cooper-Jones and Marcus Arbery, Sr., and their attorneys Ben Crump and S. Lee Merritt, held a video news conference on Wednesday.
“He was my baby boy that I had on Mother’s Day of 1994,” Cooper-Jones said. “He was his sister and brother’s keeper … his spirit was good. He was a ‘Yes, ma’am’ and ‘No, ma’am’ type of fellow.”
Cooper-Jones recalled police telling her that Ahmaud Arbery was shot dead by a homeowner during a home burglary.
It was only after his funeral that she came across a news article reporting that he was killed in the street, not a home or a home’s yard, First Coast News reported. So she began to look into the circumstances of her child’s death.
“It was a hate crime,” Marcus Arbery, Sr. told First Coast News. “My young son wasn’t doing nothing — minding his own business, running and working out. And that’s a crime? To work out and run and he ain’t breaking no law? No. Time out.”
Cooper-Jones said she hadn’t seen the gruesome footage of her son’s final moments.
“I don’t think that I’ll ever reach the mental capacity to ever watch the video,” his mother said. “You know, I saw my son come in the world, and seeing him leave the world, it’s not something that I’ll want to see, ever.”
Merritt issued a statement on behalf of the family, alleging that Gregory and Travis McMichaels “targeted” Ahmaud Arbery “solely because of his race and murdered him without justification.”
“These men were not performing any police function or any duty as citizens of Georgia … these men were vigilantes, they were a posse they were performing a lynching in the middle of the day,” said Merritt.
—Bridgette Matter (@bridgetteANjax) May 5, 2020
He went on to call for police to arrest the father-and-son duo.
“Mr. Arbery had not committed any crime and there was no reason for these men to believe they had the right to stop him with weapons or to use deadly force in the furtherance of their unlawful attempted stop,” the statement reads. “This is murder.”
A grand jury was going to be called upon to decide whether to file charges against the McMichaels
A Georgia county prosecutor said earlier this week that he planned to empanel a grand jury to decide whether charges should be filed against the pair.
“I am of the opinion that the case should be presented to the grand jury of Glynn County for consideration of criminal charges against those involved in the death of Mr. Arbery,” Tom Durden said in a letter that was shared by the Coastal Courier.
Durden is the Atlantic Judicial Circuit District Attorney and was assigned Arbery’s case after prosecutors in Brunswick and a neighboring district recused themselves due to potential conflicts of interest, Reuters reported.
Gregory McMichael worked as an investigator for the Glynn County District Attorney’s office until May 2019, when he retired, a spokesman for the office told Insider. That prompted the recusal of Jackie Johnson, the district attorney from the Brunswick Judicial Circuit.
Sean Rayford/Getty Images
The case was passed off to George Barnhill, the district attorney for the neighboring Waycross Judicial Circuit, but he stepped aside as well because his son also worked for Johnson, according to a letter he sent to Glynn County Police Captain Tom Jump obtained by The New York Times.
In it, Barnhill says that there are no “grounds for an arrest.”
The McMichaels were “following in ‘hot pursuit,’ a burglary suspect, with solid first-hand probable cause, in their neighborhood, and asking/telling him to stop,” he wrote. “It appears their intent was to stop and hold this criminal suspect until law enforcement arrived. Under Georgia law this is perfectly legal.”
Barnhill’s letter also says that Georgia’s open carry law allows them to be armed since neither is a convicted felon. They were also in a car registered to Travis McMichael.
He also detailed the altercation between Arbery and the junior McMichael, the ensuing shooting, and wounds sustained by Arbery.
“Given the fact Arbery initiated the fight, at the point Arbery grabbed the shotgun, under Georgia Law, McMichael was allowed to use deadly force to protect himself,” Barnhill wrote.
Two shots were fired, according to the police report. While the report specified that Travis fired the first shot, it does not say who fired the second.
“Just as importantly, while we know McMichael had his finger on the trigger, we do not know who caused the firings,” Barnhill wrote.
But Durden, for his part, said that he plans to present Arbery’s case to the next available grand jury in Glynn County after the coronavirus lockdown lifts.
That might not happen until mid-June or later, because courts in Georgia are currently prohibited from empaneling juries due to the pandemic.
Demands for justice for Arbery mount
The lack of justice in the months since Arbery’s death has led to protest.
On Tuesday, more than 100 people carried signs and prayed in the streets where Arbery died, according to WJAX-TV.
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 is going through.”
The case is being watched across the nation, with presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaking out on Arbery’s behalf alongside NBA star LeBron James, who expressed anguish that people of color are “hunted” on a daily basis.
—Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) May 6, 2020
—LeBron James (@KingJames) May 6, 2020
Other celebrities have also expressed anger. Supermodel Padma Lakshmi tweeted the Glynn County Police Department’s phone number so people could demand that Gregory and Travis McMichael be taken into custody.
—Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) May 6, 2020
—Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) May 7, 2020
—Joshua Potash (@JoshuaPotash) May 7, 2020
—Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) May 7, 2020
#IRunWithMaud is trending on social media, with thousands signing up to run 2.23 miles — which marks the day of Arbery’s death — on his birthday Friday. A Change.org petition that seeks #JusticeForAhmaud has also amassed over 340,000 signatures.
In an op-ed in The New York Times, columnist Charles Blow lamented the way laws in the United States work toward “black people’s detriment and sometimes their demise,” but protect people like Travis and Gregory McMichael as well as George Zimmerman, who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February 2012.
“It is men like these, with hot heads and cold steel, these with yearnings of heroism, the vigilantes who mask vengeance as valor, who cross their social anxiety with racial anxiety and the two spark like battery cables,” Blow wrote. “Arbery was enjoying a nice run on a beautiful day when he began to be stalked by armed men.”
“What must that have felt like?” he wondered. “What must he have thought as he collapsed to the ground and could feel the life leaving his body?”
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