From the beginning, the case of Ahmaud Arbery was a conflict of interest for the local officers and district attorney’s office.
In cellphone video of the Feb. 23 fatal shooting of Arbery, the man seen standing in the bed of a pickup truck with a firearm was a retired investigator for the Brunswick District Attorney’s Office and a former officer for the Glynn County Police Department. His son, Travis McMichael, fired the shots that killed Arbery, according to arrest warrants.
On the day of Arbery’s death, police had a video showing the shooting, but no arrests were made that day.
Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson advised officers the day of the shooting that her former investigator, Greg McMichael, and his son, Travis Michael, were “not flight risks,” according to Glynn County spokesperson Michael Kent, and did not need to be arrested. Johnson denies ever giving such advice.
Waycross District Attorney Georgie Barnhill, who had yet to be assigned the case by Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, met with investigators the next day and advised officers not to arrest the McMichaels or the person accused in the police report of attempting to block Arbery in, according to a letter that he sent to the Glynn County Police Department.
The McMichaels did not face charges until more than two months after the shooting when a Brunswick attorney, Alan Tucker, released the video to Georgia radio station WGIG. The fallout was quick. The video went viral and sparked outcry over the deadly shooting from celebrities, presidential candidates and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation began investigating, and within 36 hours, the McMichaels were facing felony murder and aggravated assault charges.
For people outside of Glynn County, the case mirrors other cases of unarmed black men killed by police officers and bystanders claiming self-defense.