Home WORLD NEWS What We Know About the Shooting Death of Ahmaud Arbery

What We Know About the Shooting Death of Ahmaud Arbery

by biasharadigest

ATLANTA — The shooting death in February of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, after he was pursued by armed white residents of a coastal South Georgia neighborhood, gained increasing attention from lawmakers, celebrities and civil rights activists.

Activists have organized a social media protest scheduled for Friday, which would have been Mr. Arbery’s birthday. Supporters are being asked to run 2.23 miles — representing the date of Mr. Arbery’s death — and post to social media with the hashtag #IRunWithMaud.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said that both men had been taken into custody and had also been charged with aggravated assault. Travis McMichael fired the shots that killed Mr. Arbery, the state agency said.

Another prosecutor, who recused himself from the case last month, had argued to the local police that arrests were not warranted because the father and son who were chasing Mr. Arbery were acting within Georgia’s citizen arrest and self-defense statutes.

For weeks, the killing was not widely known about outside of Glynn County, Ga., where it occurred, in part because the coronavirus-related lockdowns distracted the nation and made local public protests difficult.

Now the case is resonating in troubling and familiar ways, raising questions about racial profiling, the interpretation of self-defense laws and the wisdom of citizen policing.

This is what we know — and don’t know — about the case:

Mr. Arbery, 25, was a former high school football standout who was living with his mother outside the small city of Brunswick. He was shot dead in a suburban neighborhood called Satilla Shores. Friends and family said he liked to stay in good shape, and he was often seen jogging in and around his neighborhood.

On Sunday, Feb. 23, shortly after 1 p.m., he was killed in a neighborhood a short jog away from his home after being confronted by a white man and his son.

Mr. Arbery was running in Satilla Shores when a man standing in his front yard saw him go by, according to a police report. The man, Gregory McMichael, said he thought Mr. Arbery looked like a man suspected in several break-ins in the area and called to his son, Travis McMichael.

According to the police report, the men grabbed a .357 Magnum handgun and a shotgun, got into a pickup truck and chased Mr. Arbery, trying unsuccessfully to cut him off. A third man was also involved in the pursuit, according to the police report and other documents.

In a recording of a 911 call, which appears to have been made moments before the chase began, a neighbor told a dispatcher that a black man was inside a house that was under construction on the McMichaels’ block.

During the chase, the McMichaels yelled, “Stop, stop, we want to talk to you,” according to Gregory McMichael’s account in the police report. They then pulled up to Mr. Arbery, and Travis McMichael got out of the truck with the shotgun.

Gregory McMichael “stated the unidentified male began to violently attack Travis and 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 states.

The police report and other documents obtained by The New York Times do not indicate that Mr. Arbery was armed.

Gregory McMichael is a former Glynn County police officer and a former investigator with the local district attorney’s office who retired last May.

Shortly after the shooting, the prosecutor for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, Jackie Johnson, recused herself because Gregory McMichael had worked in her office.

The case was sent to George E. Barnhill, the district attorney in Waycross, Ga., who later recused himself from the case after Mr. Arbery’s mother argued that he had a conflict because his son also works for the Brunswick district attorney.

But before he relinquished the case, Mr. Barnhill wrote a letter to the Glynn County Police Department. In the letter, which was obtained by The Times, he argued that there was not sufficient probable cause to arrest Mr. Arbery’s pursuers.

Mr. Barnhill noted that the McMichaels were legally carrying their firearms under Georgia’s open carry law. He said the pursuers had been within their rights to pursue what he called “a burglary suspect” and cited a state law that says, “A private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge.”

Mr. Barnhill also argued that if Mr. Arbery attacked Travis McMichael, Mr. McMichael was “allowed to use deadly force to protect himself” under Georgia law.

Anger over the killing and the lack of consequences for the McMichaels grew when a graphic video surfaced, showing the shooting on a suburban road.

Attorneys for Mr. Arbery’s family believe the video is the same one that Mr. Barnhill refers to in his letter to the police. Mr. Barnhill described the video as having been made by a third man who had joined the McMichaels in “hot pursuit” of Mr. Arbery.

The video is about a half-minute long and appears to be taken by someone riding or driving in a vehicle as it heads down a street in Satilla Shores. It shows Mr. Arbery running along a shaded two-lane residential road when he comes upon a white truck, with a man standing beside its open driver’s side door with a shotgun. Another man is in the bed of the pickup with a handgun.

Mr. Arbery runs around the truck and disappears briefly from view. Muffled shouting can be heard before Mr. Arbery emerges, fighting with the man outside the truck as three shotgun blasts echo.

Mr. Arbery tries to run but staggers and falls to the pavement after a few steps.

Mr. Arbery’s defenders believe he was probably jogging through the neighborhood for exercise. Michael J. Moore, an Atlanta lawyer who formerly served as a federal prosecutor in Georgia, reviewed Mr. Barnhill’s letter to the Glynn County Police Department, as well as the initial police report, at the request of The Times. In an email, Mr. Moore called Mr. Barnhill’s opinion “flawed.”

In his view, Mr. Moore said, the McMichaels appeared to be the aggressors in the confrontation, and such aggressors were not justified in using force under Georgia’s self-defense laws. “The law does not allow a group of people to form an armed posse and chase down an unarmed person who they believe might have possibly been the perpetrator of a past crime,” Mr. Moore wrote.

The Georgia N.A.A.C.P. previously called for the pursuers to be arrested, and the Rev. Al Sharpton called for an investigation.

On Tuesday, Joe Biden, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, weighed in on Twitter. “The video is clear: Ahmaud Arbery was killed in cold blood,” he wrote. “My heart goes out to his family, who deserve justice and deserve it now. It is time for a swift, full, and transparent investigation into his murder.”

Both Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, a Republican, and his Democratic opponent in the 2018 governor’s race, Stacey Abrams, the former state House minority leader, have expressed concern over the case.

Mr. Kemp Tuesday wrote on Twitter that “Georgians deserve answers.” Ms. Abrams wrote that “our systems of law enforcement and justice must be held to the highest standards: full investigation, appropriate charges and an unbiased prosecution.”

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