Georgia authorities arrested a white father and son Thursday and charged them with murder in the February shooting death of a black man they had pursued in a truck after spotting him running in their neighborhood.
The charges came more than two months after Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was killed on a residential street just outside the port city of Brunswick. National outrage over the case swelled this week after a cellphone video that appeared to show the shooting.
Gregory McMichael told police after the February shooting that he and his son chased after Arbery because they suspected him of being a burglar. Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, has said she believes her son, a former football player, was just jogging in the Satilla Shores neighbourhood before he was killed on a Sunday afternoon.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced the arrests the day after it began its own investigation at the request of an outside prosecutor. The agency said in a news release that Gregory McMichael, 64, and his 34-year-old son, Travis McMichael, had both been jailed on charges of murder and aggravated assault.
The GBI news release said the McMichaels “confronted Arbery with two firearms. During the encounter, Travis McMichael shot and killed Arbery.” No other details were immediately released.
It was not immediately known if either of the McMichaels had an attorney who could comment on the charges.
Gregory McMichael served as an investigator for Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson. He retired last year. The connection caused Johnson to recuse herself from the case.
The runner crosses the road to pass the pickup on the passenger side, then crosses back in front of the truck. A gunshot sounds, and the video shows the runner grappling with a man in the street over what appears to be a shotgun or rifle. A second shot can be heard, and the runner can be seen punching the man. A third shot is fired at point-blank range. The runner staggers a few feet and falls face down.
Brunswick defence attorney Alan Tucker identified himself Thursday as the person who shared the video with the radio station. In a statement, Tucker said he wasn’t representing anyone involved in the case. He said he released the video “because my community was being ripped apart by erroneous accusations and assumptions.”
Tucker did not say how he obtained the video. He did not immediately respond to a phone message or an email.
The outcry over the killing reached the White House, where President Donald Trump offered condolences Thursday to Arbery’s family.
“It’s a very sad thing,” Trump said in the Oval Office, “but I will be given a full report this evening.”
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has called Arbery’s death a “murder.” During an online round-table Thursday, Biden compared the video to seeing Arbery “lynched before our very eyes.”
The outside prosecutor overseeing the case, Tom Durden, had said Monday that he wanted a grand jury to decide whether charges are warranted. With Georgia courts still largely closed because of the coronavirus, the soonest that could happen is mid-June.
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#ahmaudarbery hunted and Murdered in broad daylight and not one has been arrested? These fools who think we live in Wild West must be brought to book! Why are you hiding if you did what you thought was right by killing a fellow man, then show yourself in broad daylight and let’s see how proud you are before we take you down and show you that your actions were nothing but an act of cowardice! No one is singing to your glory, no one was saved but a family lost a son and you ruined your futures; your families will now be known as families of murderers, the weird ones; and there is no letting go or lying low for this because you must ultimately pay for this! Destiny is all!