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2½ months after black jogger shot and killed, GBI joins investigation

Protests mount over lack of arrests in Brunswick area homicide

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Amid growing outrage over the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery as he was jogging one February afternoon in a Brunswick suburb, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has assigned three supervisory-level agents to look into the man’s death and why the shooter hasn’t been charged.

For the second day in a row, protestors in Brunswick called for the arrest of the shooter and his father, a former district attorney investigators, who told police they suspected the 25-year-old black man was a burglar and they were trying to make a citizen’s arrest when Arbery was killed on Feb. 23.

“Ahmaud was still young. He had dreams that wasn’t fulfilled. He loved life,” said the victim’s mother, Wanda Cooper.

Arbery’s parents remembered their son as an ambitious athlete who lost his life doing what he loved.

“Everybody knows all he did was run and work out. He took a lot of pride in what he wants to do. He was a very bright young man who knew what he wanted to do in life,” said his father, Marcus Arbery. “He wanted to be an athlete, always involved in sports. He always told me he wanted to box, kept telling me them things. That’s why he was always training."

GBI Director Vic Reynolds acknowledged emotions are running high and asked for patience.

“This case would be run from headquarters. That will bring to bear every resource and all the experience this agency has in resolving this matter,” Reynolds said in a video posted on the agency’s Facebook page Wednesday. “Usually, the right road isn’t the quickest or the fastest way, but it’s the right way. That’s the road we intend on taking. The governor of this state wants justice done in this case, as does the GBI. I’m confident we’ll deliver that.”

The GBI was asked to investigate the fatal shooting on Tuesday, the day a cellphone video of the fatal encounter was posted on YouTube by Brunswick radio station WGIG. The source of the video wasn’t confirmed, but it is believed it was part of the official investigation all along.

Arbery’s mother said she can’t watch the video of her son being shot and killed, saying she gave birth to him and can’t stand to see his last moments alive. She said on the day he was killed, Glynn County detectives lied to her and told her that her son died while he was committing a crime, but the video shows an entirely different scenario.

Other than Arbery, the men in the video are believed to be former Brunswick District Attorney investigator Greg McMichael and his son, Travis. The 30-second clip shows Arbery jogging toward a pickup truck stopped in the street in Satilla Shores. After a gunshot is heard, Arbery runs around the truck and confronts the gunman, believed to be Travis McMichael, and they struggle over a shotgun and a .357 that the elder McMichael later told police was his. Arbery can also be seen punching the younger McMichael before two more gunshots are heard and Arbery falls to the ground as he tries to run away.

The homicide was initially investigated by Glynn County police and the Brunswick District Attorney’s Office, but turned over to the Ware County District Attorney’s Office do to a conflict of interest due to the elder McMichael’s former employment in law enforcement. The case was then forwarded to the Hinesville District Attorney’s Office when Ware County claimed the same conflict.

That district attorney, Tom Durden, said Tuesday he would recommend a grand jury review the case and whether criminal charges are warranted. Later in the day, he formally asked GBI to get involved.

“There no place on Earth, really, where what happened to Ahmaud isn’t criminal," said the family’s attorney, Lee Merritt. “But apparently in Brunswick the men can get away with it for months at a time and continue to enjoy their families, homes, freedom. It’s offensive. It’s painful for this family.”

The Brunswick branch of the NAACP feels that the GBI should have been brought in immediately -- not 57 days later.

“It’s appalling that a cover-up of any sort was tried, was done in this case. So we’re very upset as community leaders and we’ve called for the immediate termination of the chief of police that was in charge at the time,” said John Perry, president of the Brunswick branch of the NAACP.

Arbery’s attorneys allege prosecutorial misconduct on behalf of the Glynn County Police Department and the Waycross District Attorneys, prompting a protest Wednesday outside the Brunswick District Attorney’s Office.

Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey said the push for justice will not end.

“This community stands strong -- stands strong and stands together. We want to make sure that we get our voice out there, our voices heard and our demands met for justice because this should not have happened,” he said.

On late Wednesday night, Arbery’s death got the attention of NBA star Lebron James, who spoke out about the 25-year-old’s death on Twitter.

Timeline of how GBI became involved in investigation

On Wednesday evening, the GBI released a timeline of how it became involved in the investigation into Arbery’s death:

On May 5, Durden formally requested the GBI investigate the death of Arbery. The Kingsland Office initiated an investigation on May 6.

On April 29, the Glynn County Police Department requested that the GBI investigate allegations of threats against GCPD and individuals involved in the active investigation.

On the morning of May 5, GCPD requested the GBI investigate the public release of video related to Arbery’s death.

The GBI said “these investigations are all active and ongoing” and asks anyone with information to call 1-800-597-TIPS.


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