Georgia DA Calls for Grand Jury Investigation Into Shooting Death of Ahmaud Arbery

By Shani Saxon May 07, 2020

Georgia officials are calling for a grand jury investigation into the shooting death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black man who was hunted down by two white men on February 23 as he went for a jog in Brunswick, Georgia, Time reports. “After careful review of the evidence presented, I am confident the case should be presented to the grand jury of Glynn County for consideration of criminal charges,” Tom Durden, District Attorney of Georgia’s Atlantic Judicial Court, said in a statement obtained by Time. 

The prospect of waiting a month or more for a grand jury to consider bringing charges, however, does not sit well with Arbery’s family, according to The Associated Press. Georgia courts remain mostly closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, which means a grand jury wouldn’t hear this case until mid-June at the earliest. In light of that, his parents on Wednesday called for immediate arrests in their’s son’s case. 

Reports AP:

A swelling outcry over the Feb. 23 shooting of Ahmaud Arbery intensified after a cellphone video that lawyers for his family say shows the killing surfaced online Tuesday. Following the video’s release, a large crowd of demonstrators marched in the neighborhood where Arbery was killed, and the state opened its own investigation, which the governor and attorney general pledged to support. The men who pursued Arbery told police they suspected he had committed a recent burglary.

…Attorneys for Arbery’s family said the father and son, who have acknowledged in a police report grabbing guns and pursuing Arbery in a truck after seeing him running in their neighborhood, should be arrested now before a grand jury decides whether to indict them—as often happens in criminal cases.

“These men were vigilantes, they were a posse and they performed a modern lynching in the middle of the day,” Lee Merritt, an attorney for Arbery’s mother, told the AP. 

In an interview with local outlet First Coast News, Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper, said her son, a former high school football player who was on his way to becoming an electrician, is not getting the justice he deserves. “I’m feeling very discouraged at this point,” she said. “I just think about how they could allow these two men to kill my son and not be arrested. That’s what I can’t understand.”

Time reached out to Durden and Glynn County Police Department in an attempt to verify the cellphone footage of Arbery’s murder when it was released on May 5. So far there has been no response. Merritt said in a statement obtained by Time that Arbery’s family made “multiple requests” to law enforcement to see the footage, but they were never given access. According to Time, Merritt insists, “police have had the video footage since Feb. 23, the day Arbery was killed. It is not clear why the footage was not shared with family or released prior to Tuesday.”

Reports AP:

According to an incident report filed by Glynn County police, Arbery was shot after two men spotted him running in their neighborhood on a Sunday afternoon. Gregory McMichael told police that he and his adult son thought the runner matched the description of someone caught on a security camera committing a recent break-in in the neighborhood. They armed themselves with guns before getting in a truck to pursue him.

The father said his son, Travis McMichael, got out of the truck holding a shotgun, and Arbery “began to violently attack.” He said Arbery was shot as the two men fought over the shotgun, according to the police report.

James Woodall, president of the Georgia NAACP, released a statement obtained by Time criticizing the “mismanagement” of Arbery’s case. “While we acknowledge District Attorney Tom Durden’s intentions to convene a grand jury to bring charges against the men who gunned down Ahmaud Arbery, we recognize that we have a long way to go until we reach justice,” he said. “The modern-day lynching of Mr. Arbery is yet another reminder of the vile and wicked racism that persists in parts of our country.”

Andrea Young, the executive director for the ACLU of Georgia, compared Arbery’s murder to the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin. “The vigilante behavior that we saw in Brunswick is unacceptable in a civilized society,” Young said in a statement obtained by Time. “Ahmaud was killed three days before the anniversary of the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin. Both incidents are a reminder that white supremacy has been a foundation for our country and leads repeatedly to the targeting and harming people of color, particularly African Americans.”

Merritt, according to the AP, is calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate Arbery’s murder as a hate crime.