Three men have been officially indicted in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, on murder charges, Cobb District Attorney Joyette Homes announced on Wednesday. Arbery, a 25-year-old African-American, was pursued and shot while he was jogging through a Brunswick neighborhood on February 23.
Arbery's killing, which was captured on a disturbing video, drew national outcry. The announcement of the murder charges come just a day after Georgia legislature passed a hate crimes bill that would allow prosecutors to seek enhanced sentencing for those convicted of targeting a victim because of their race.
First Step Toward Justice
Three white men, Gregory McMichael (64), his son Travis McMichael (34) and their neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan (50), were indicted on Wednesday over the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery. They were charged with malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to false imprisonment.
McMichaels and Bryan are accused of collectively causing Arbery's death. The three were arrested last month but the charges were imposed more than two and a half months after the incident. Arbery's family was notified about the indictment. Homes said that the coronavirus-related shutdown also delayed some of the judicial procedure.
Following the arrests, McMichael said that he mistook Arbery for a person with similar looks suspected in a series of recent break-ins in the area. However, according to Homes, police investigations revealed that no series of break-ins were reported in more than seven weeks before Arbery's death in that area, and there was only a burglary report after a gun was stolen from an unlocked vehicle in front of the McMichaels' home. Investigators also believe that Bryan used his truck to "confine and detain" Arbery several times in the minutes leading to his death.
Cellphone Video Dooms Culprits
Arbery's killing largely went unnoticed for more than a month till a disturbing video of the incident surfaced showing three men trying to corner him with arms and later killing him. Incidentally, the video was shot by Bryan on his cellphone which got leaked on May 5. Following that, the McMichaels were arrested on May 7, while Bryan was taken into custody two weeks later.
The video shows Arbery jogging at the Satilla Shores neighborhood on a Sunday afternoon. Soon after, Arbery is seen running toward a pickup truck with McMichael standing next to it. He tries to run to the other side of the truck to avoid McMichael who is armed with a shotgun. However, the two start struggling and later McMichael shoots him.
The autopsy report released by the GBI showed that Arbery was shot twice in the chest and a third bullet grazed his right wrist. In a court hearing earlier this month, an investigator with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said that Bryan said that he heard Travis McMichael using a racial slur as Arbery lay dying.
Arbery's death adds to the long list of incidents of systemic racism and bias that have led to nationwide protests asking for the end of hate crime, racial discrimination and police brutality. Last month, George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American, was killed in Minneapolis when now-fired police officer David Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes that choked him. A week later, another Black man, Rayshard Brooks, was shot twice by police officers who were responding to a call about Brooks sleeping in his car at the parking lot of a Wendy's restaurant.