[CORRECTION: The third paragraph in a previous version of this story misstated that Gregory McMichael was the individual holding the shotgun in the reported confrontation with Ahmaud Arbery. The person holding the shotgun was Travis McMichael.]
Georgia Prosecutor Tom Durden announced on Tuesday that the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year old African American man whose mother says he was killed while on his daily jog, will be reviewed by a grand jury once court business is allowed to continue.
The shooting, which occurred in late February, drew significant attention after graphic footage of Arbery’s last moments circulated early Tuesday morning, ahead of the prosecutor’s announcement that the case would go to a grand jury.
The video clip shows Arbery running down the street in the direction of a white pickup truck. Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael, who are father and son, can be seen waiting at the truck, armed. When Arbery approaches the truck, he goes around the passenger side, and a struggle begins between him and Travis McMichael, who is holding a shotgun.
Lee Merritt, an attorney for the Arbery family, posted a copy of the video clip in a statement and said that the evidence shows that Arbery was murdered.
“The series of events captured in this video confirm what all the evidence indicated prior to its release — Ahmaud Arbery was pursued by three white men that targeted him solely because of his race and murdered him without justification. This is murder,” said Merritt.
The video, shown below, is graphic:
“The series of events captured in this video confirm what all the evidence indicated prior to its release— Ahmaud Arbery was pursued by three white men that targeted him solely because of his race and murdered him without justification. This is murder.” pic.twitter.com/v4TAs0RjO7
— S. Lee Merritt, Esq. (@MeritLaw) May 5, 2020
“He was out for his daily jog and he was hunted down like an animal and killed,” Wanda Jones, the victim’s mother, told CBS News.
Gregory McMichael, a former investigator with the district attorney’s office, told police after the shooting that he was in his front yard when he saw a man, who he believed to be a suspect in a recent string of break-ins, “hauling ass” down the road, according to a police report obtained by The New York Times.
McMichael stated he then ran inside his house and called to Travis (McMichael) and said “Travis the guy is running down the street lets go “. 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”. Michael stated ” the other night” they saw the same male and he stuck his hand down his pants which lead them to believe the male was armed.
After driving down the road, Gregory McMichael says that they spotted the man and, at one point in the pursuit, someone tried to intercept him. Later in the chase, Gregory McMichael told police they shouted at the man saying, “Stop, stop, we want to talk to you.”
McMichael stated they pulled up beside the male and shouted stop again at which time Travis exited the truck with the shotgun. 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. Michael stated the male fell face down on the pavement with his hand under his body. McMichael stated he rolled the man over to see if the male had a weapon.
Durden, the third prosecutor who has been assigned to the case, announced on Tuesday that criminal charges will now be considered, but declined to disclose additional information about the charges, reports NBC News.
“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,” said the prosecutor.
According to The New York Times, George Barnhill, the second prosecutor, wrote a letter to the police chief saying that he would recuse himself from the case at the request of the victim’s mother, who pointed out that Barnhill’s son worked for the prosecutor who had previously recused themselves from the case.
In that letter, Barnhill also provided a follow-up to his initial professional opinion of the case, and said that he and another senior trial attorney didn’t believe there was sufficient evidence for arrests to be made in the case.
It appears Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael, and Bryan William were following, in hot pursuit, a burglary suspect, with solid first hand probable cause, in their neighborhood, and asking/ telling him to stop. It Appears Their intention was to stop and hold this criminal suspect until law enforcement arrived. Under Georgia Law this is perfectly legal…
The video made by William Bryan clearly shows the shooting in realtime. From said video it appears Ahmaud Arbery was running along the right side of the McMichael truck then abruptly turns 90 degrees to the left and attacks Travis McMichael who was standing at the front left corner of the truck. A brief skirmish ensues in which it appear Arbery strikes McMichael and appears to grab the shotgun and pull it from McMichael…
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.
Just as importantly, while we know McMichael had his finger on the trigger, we do not know who caused the firings. Arbery would only had to pull the shotgun approximately 1/ 16th to 1/8th of one inch to fire the weapon himself and in the height of an altercation this is entirely possible.
Toward the end of the letter, Barhill points to Arbery’s mental health history and prior criminal acts. The Times reports that Arbery was convicted of shoplifting and violating probation two years ago, and was indicted five years ago for bringing a gun to a high school sporting event.
Arbery’s mental health records & prior convictions help explain his apparent aggressive nature and his possible thought pattern to attack an armed man.
For the above and foregoing reasons, it is our conclusion there is insufficient probable cause to issue arrest warrants at this time.
Neither Gregory McMichael nor Travis McMichael have been arrested for the incident, and the details surrounding the role of William Bryan, the third man named in Barnhill’s letter, remain unclear.
In a statement to The Times, Michael J. Moore, a former U.S. attorney in Atlanta, said that after reviewing Barnhill’s letter and the police report, he believed that Barnhill’s opinion was “flawed.”
“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,” said Moore.
After the prosecutor revealed that the case would head to a grand jury, State Attorney General Chris Carr said that he was “deeply concerned” about the circumstances of Arbery’s death.
“Based on the video footage and news reports that I have seen, I am deeply concerned with the events surrounding the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery,” said Carr. “I expect justice to be carried out as swiftly as possible.”
— GA AG Chris Carr (@Georgia_AG) May 6, 2020
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