Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

Ahmaud Arbery
May 8, 1994 – February 23, 2020

Regardless of their mundane activity–walking, jogging, dancing, or simply standing–Black men have been and still are often targets. So was the case for Ahmaud Arbery. A 25-year old who, like millions of other young people, loved to run.

A father and a son saw that love as a threat. They pursued, shot, and killed Ahmaud.  And it was weeks before their actions came to national light.

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

Pursuit permitted

February 23, 2020: Travis McMichael, 34, and his father, Gregory McMichael, 64, shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery who had been jogging near his home on the outskirts of Brunswick, Ga.

Gregory McMichael told the police that he thought Arbery looked like a man suspected in several break-ins in the area. The Brunswick News, citing documents obtained through a public records request, reported that there had been just one burglary in the neighborhood since January: the theft of a handgun from an unlocked truck parked outside Travis McMichael’s house.

February 27, 2020: the Brunswick[GA] District Attorney’s Office and the Glynn County Police Department conducted the initial investigation into the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.

On this date, the Brunswick district attorney, Jackie L. Johnson, recused herself from the case, pointing out that Gregory McMichael, a former Glynn County police officer, had been a longtime investigator in her office until his retirement in May 2019.

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

Limited investigation

April 1, 2020: after a public records request, The Brunswick News [GA] reported details of the Glynn County Police Department’s records on the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery. The police report was based almost entirely on the responding officer’s interview with Gregory McMichael. The records claimed that after the McMichaels pursued Arbery, Travis McMichael and Arbery “started fighting over the shotgun, at which point Travis fired a shot and then a second later there was a second shot.”

George E. Barnhill, the Waycross district attorney, took over the case and advised the police that there was insufficient cause to arrest Mr. Arbery’s pursuers. He argued that they had acted legally under Georgia’s citizen arrest and self-defense laws, according to documents obtained by The New York Times.

Under pressure from Arbery’s family, Barnhill then recused himself from the case because his son had worked in the Brunswick prosecutor’s office with Gregory McMichael. Mr. Barnhill asked the Georgia Attorney General’s Office to help find another district attorney to handle the case.

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

A Third Prosecutor

April 13, 2020: the Aubery case was transferred to a third prosecutor, District Attorney Tom Durden of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit.

April 26, 2020: for two months, the shooting received little attention outside Brunswick, GA. As the coronavirus pandemic dominated headlines and shut down communities around the country, The NY Times spoke with Mr. Arbery’s friends and family, who were by then concerned the case might quietly disappear in their Deep South community, because social distancing restrictions had made it difficult for them to gather and protest.

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

Video Emerges

May 5, 2020: a video of the encounter had begun to circulate online. Recorded from inside a vehicle, it showed Ahmaud Arbery running along a shaded two-lane residential road when he came upon a white pickup truck, with a man standing beside its open driver-side door. Another man was in the truck bed. Arbery ran around the vehicle and disappeared briefly from view. Muffled shouting could be heard before Arbery emerges, tussling with the man outside the truck as three shotgun blasts echo.

That same day,  District Attorney Tom Durden of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit.said that he wanted to send the case to a grand jury to decide whether to bring charges. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said that night that it would be taking over the case at Durden’s request.

CBS News report:

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

Arrests

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

May 7, 2020: according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, authorities arrested Gregory and Travis McMichael and booked them into a jail in Glynn County, Both were charged with murder and aggravated assault.

May 8, 2020: to commemorate his birthday, supporters of  Ahmaud Arbery’s family ran 2.23-mile — a reference to the date of his killing. And at a time when many people were prevented from gathering in person to rally, some were connecting instead on social media using the hashtag #IRunWithMaud.

DOJ asked to investigate

May 10, 2020: Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr asked the Department of Justice on Sunday to conduct an investigation  into the handling of the Ahmaud Arbery case. [NPR story]

Fourth Prosecutor

May 11, 2020: Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr named Joyette M. Holmes to oversee the case of Ahmaud Arbery

Holmes, comes from Cobb County in the Atlanta metropolitan area, where she was the first African-American to serve as district attorney. She was the fourth prosecutor assigned to lead a case that has bounced among district attorneys and law enforcement agencies. [NYT article]

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

William Bryan arrested

May 21: the NY Times reported that authorities had arrested William Bryan, 50, the man who filmed the pursuit and shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery. Bryan was arrested  in connection with the killing, Georgia authorities said.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) said in a statement that the  Bryan was arrested on charges of felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

Bryan, who is white, had recorded the confrontation.

Lawyers for Mr. Arbery’s family said they were “relieved” by the arrest. “His involvement in the murder of Mr. Arbery was obvious to us, to many around the country and after their thorough investigation, it was clear to the G.B.I. as well,” the statement said.

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

Sufficient Probable Cause

June 4: Richard Dial, an assistant special agent in charge for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, testified that William Bryan, a neighbor one of the three white, heard defendant Travis McMichael, 34, use a racist slur moments after firing the three shotgun blasts  that killed Aubery.

The  revelation, suggesting overt racism was at play in the case, came in a hearing in Brunswick, Ga., that ended with Judge Wallace E. Harrell of Glynn County Magistrate Court determining that sufficient probable cause existed to support the murder charges brought against the three men.

There were several fiery moments in the hearing. At one point, after a lawyer for one defendant referred to the Book of Amos, the special prosecutor Jesse Evans cited another Bible verse.

“I’ve got one,” he said. “What about ‘Love thy neighbor’?” The three defendants, Mr. Evans said, had hunted down a “defenseless” man. “He was tormented, he was hunted, he was targeted,” Mr. Evans said. [NYT story]

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

Indictments

June 24, 2020: CNN reportedthat Cobb District Attorney Joyette M. Holmes had announced that Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael, and William R. Bryan were indicted by a grand jury.

“We will continue to be intentional in the pursuit of justice for this family and the community at large as the prosecution of this case continues,” said Holmes, the specially appointed prosecutor in the case.

The charges also include aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment, according to the indictment.

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

Memorial shot up

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

July 16, 2020:  Police investigated the destruction of a memorial to Ahmaud Arbery on the front lawn of a home on Route 304, Winfield, GA. .

“About 10 p.m our roommate heard three pops and looked out the window,” said Samara Halperin, who was staying at the house as well. “A car with its headlights off zoomed away. It was pretty clear that was who shot at the memorial.”

“We called in the state police,” Halperin said.

“It’s so sad, and proves a point,” she said. “These racists are very cowardly and out of control. This is why the memorial was put up in the first place.”

“This is very disturbing,” Shoemaker said on Friday. “The act of it itself proves the need for this kind of art, or this kind of conversation — people talking to their neighbors, their family, about racism because it is here. Bringing it into focus can only help change it.”

Trooper Mark Reasner, State Police, Milton barracks spokesman, said the incident is under investigation.

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

Not-guilty pleas

July 17, 2020:  Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan entered the not-guilty pleas through their lawyers. They faced a litany of charges, including murder for killing Aubrey as he jogged through their neighborhood.

The hearing was partially virtual because of the coronavirus. The defendants joined from the jail via video conference. And several lawyers appeared on computer. Those in the courtroom wore masks and sat far apart. Georgia was under a judicial coronavirus emergency, which has delayed the case. And as Judge Timothy Walmsley noted, those delays will continue. [NPR story]

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

Not-guilty pleas again

October 16, 2020:  Gregory McMichael, his son Travis, and William Bryan pleaded not guilty in Chatham County Superior Court docket.  Gregory , 64, and Travis, 34, were charged with homicide and aggravated assault.  Bryan ,50, was charged with homicide and try and illegally detain and confine. [Gruntstuff article]

One Year Later

February 23, 2021: Wanda Cooper, the mother of Ahmaud Arbery, filed a multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit against several people involved in the killing or the subsequent investigation.

Cooper filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia exactly one year after her son’s killing.

The suit named Gregory and Travis McMichael, father and son, as well as William “Roddie” Bryan.

The suit said the men “willfully and maliciously conspired to follow, threaten, detain and kill Ahmaud Arbery.”

The court filing also named law enforcement officials and local prosecutors and alleged they were intimately involved with an alleged cover-up in the investigation. [NPR article]

Federal Charges

April 28, 2021: the Justice Department brought federal hate crimes charges in the death of Ahmaud Arbery. Travis McMichael and his father, Gregory, were charged along with a third man, William “Roddie” Bryan. The father and son who armed themselves, chased and fatally shot the 25-year-old Black Arbery after spotting him running in their Georgia neighborhood. The McMichaels are also charged with using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence.

The Department charged Bryan with one count of interference with civil rights and attempted kidnapping. [AP story] (next BH, see ; next B & S, see ; next AhA, see or see AA for expanded chronology)

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

Jury

October 18, 2021: jury selection in the state trial began. [CNN article]

November 4, 2021: as per Judge Timothy Walmsley, there were motion hearings and getting “acquainted with the court.” The final panel of 12 jurors and four alternates included just one person of color, a Black man.

Prosecutors had asked Walmsley to reinstate eight Black potential jurors, arguing that defense lawyers struck them from the final jury because of their race. The U.S. Supreme Court had held it was unconstitutional for attorneys during jury selection to strike potential jurors solely based on race or ethnicity.  [CNN article]

Guilty

November 24, 2021: the jury convicted Greg McMichael, son Travis McMichael, and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryanmurder in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.

The men all faced a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley did not immediately schedule a sentencing date, saying that he wanted to give both sides time to prepare. The men all face a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Walmsley would decide whether their sentences would be served with or without the possibility of parole.

The prosecution had argued that the men provoked the fatal confrontation and that there was no evidence Arbery committed any crimes in the neighborhood.

“We commend the courage and bravery of this jury to say that what happened on Feb. 23, 2020, to Ahmaud Arbery — the hunting and killing of Ahmaud Arbery — it was not only morally wrong but legally wrong, and we are thankful for that,” said Latonia Hines, Cobb County executive assistant district attorney. [AP article]

Sentenced

January 7, 2022: Judge Timothy R. Walmsley sentenced both Travis and Gregory McMichael to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Walmsley sentenced William Bryan to a lesser sentence of life with the possibility of parole.

The main question before Walmsley was whether Mr. Arbery’s murderers should be eligible for parole after 30 years, the earliest possible opportunity for such offenders under Georgia law.

The lead prosecutor, Linda Dunikoski, asked the judge to deny the possibility of parole to the McMichaels, arguing that they had displayed a reckless history of “vigilantism” before the killing. She noted that the elder Mr. McMichael had referred to Mr. Arbery as an “asshole” as his body lay in the street and authorities responded. “There’s been no remorse and certainly no empathy from either man,” she said.

She said that Mr. Bryan should be eligible for parole in part because he had cooperated with investigators. [NYT article]

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

January 31, 2022: A U.S. federal judge rejected a plea deal on Monday that would have averted a hate crimes trial for one of the two men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery.

Arbery’s parents, Wanda Cooper-Jones and Marcus Arbery, spoke in a hearing against the deal that would have allowed the two men to serve their time in a federal prison instead of a state one. Cooper-Jones called the proposed deal “disrespectful.”

“Ahmaud didn’t get the option of a plea,” Cooper-Jones said, according to NPR member station GPB. [NPR story]

Federal Case Decision

February 22, 2022: a jury  determined that Travis McMichael, 36, his father, Gregory McMichael, 66, and their neighbor William Bryan, 52, violated a federal hate-crime statute by depriving Mr. Arbery of his right to use a public street because of the color of his skin.

The jury also found the three men guilty of attempted kidnapping and found the McMichaels guilty of one count each of brandishing or discharging a firearm during a violent crime. [NYT article]

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