Calls for criminal charges mount in shooting of black jogger

Ahmaud Arbery shot, killed while running through Brunswick neighborhood

VIDEO: The mother of a 25-year-old man shot and killed in February and the family’s attorneys are calling for the arrest of a former Brunswick District Attorney investigator and his son, who told police the shooting happening as they were trying to make a citizen’s arrest.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – The mother of a 25-year-old man shot and killed in February and the family’s attorneys are calling for the arrest of a former Brunswick District Attorney investigator and his son, who told police the shooting happening as they were trying to make a citizen’s arrest.

Video that surfaced Tuesday on YouTube showed that Ahmaud Arbery was running on Satilla Drive when two men in a pickup truck who had stopped in the street ahead confronted him and fired three shots, two of them after Arbery tried to fight a man who was holding a gun.

Arbery’s mother told reporters Wednesday morning that after her son was killed on Feb. 23, Glynn County deputies told her that her son was shot in the yard while burglarizing a home by the homeowner of the house.

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, told reporters Wednesday she believes her 25-year-old son “was just out for his daily jog” in a neighborhood outside the port city of Brunswick. She hasn’t watched the video, which is very graphic that News4Jax will not show in its entirety.

“I saw my son come into the world,” Jones said. "And seeing him leave the world, it’s not something that I’ll want to see ever.”

According to Glynn County police documents, Greg McMichael, a former District Attorney investigator, and his son, Travis McMichael, told police they followed Arbery as he ran out of a neighborhood where there had been recent burglaries and told him to stop, that they want to talk to him. The father and son admitted they both had guns but the younger man only fired two shots at Arbery after he began to fight.

The video shows otherwise.

Arbery’s mother said that for more than a week she believed what police initially told her until she learned of the McMichaels’ connection to law enforcement. That’s when she began independently looking into her son’s death. Her lawyers say they were aware that this critical cell phone video of the incident existed but were denied the opportunity to view it the three different district attorneys that have all now looked into the shooting death.

Jackie Johnson, the district attorney for Glynn County, recused herself from the case because Gregory McMichael worked as an investigator in her office. He retired a year ago. George Barnhill, the first outside prosecutor on the case, stepped aside in mid-April at the urging of Arbery’s family. Barnhill has a son who works as an assistant prosecutor for Johnson.

The family and their attorneys call Arbery’s death a hate crime that should be investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. They also believe the McMichaels should be arrested now before a grand jury decides whether they should be indicted, which often happens in criminal cases.

“We are calling for an immediate arrest,” attorney Benjamin Crump said. “Anybody else who killed a human being like this, regardless of the color of their skin, would have been arrested. He has a T-shirt and shorts on. They’re profiling him, saying he’s a burglar. That’s not the costume of a burglar. The only thing they knew was he was a young black man.”

“These men were vigilantes, they were a posse and they performed a modern lynching in the middle of the day,” said Lee Merritt, the attorney for Arbery’s mother. “There no place on earth really, where what happened to Ahmaud isn’t criminal. 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.”

Merritt said they believe the video was released by someone in one of the various state attorneys offices that handled this case over the past 73 days or by someone in the Glynn County Police Department. A separate Georgia Bureau Investigation of how the video got out is now underway.

The family said the DA who has this case now, Tom Durden of the McIntosh County office, has the ability to order an arrest warrant for the McMichaels and, after all that’s been exposed through the cellphone video, they want that arrest to happen right away.

On Tuesday, after the video was released, Durden did ask the GBI to look into Arbery’s death.

Also Tuesday, elected officials and political figures from Georgia Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler to presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and California Sen. Kamala Harris have issued statements calling for swift justice.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp late Tuesday threw his support behind a grand jury probe. He posted on Twitter: “Georgians deserve answers. State law enforcement stands ready to ensure justice is served.”

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, also a Republican, spoke out as well.

“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,” Carr said in a statement. “I expect justice to be carried out as swiftly as possible."

A large protest was held Tuesday afternoon at the site of the shooting and protesters gathered outside the Glynn County District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday afternoon.

Arbery’s attorneys allege prosecutorial misconduct on behalf of the Glynn County Sheriff’s Office and the Waycross District Attorneys. They said police and prosecutors distorted the facts.

About the Authors:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.

Joy Purdy co-anchors the 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. newscasts with Tarik Minor and the 11 p.m. weeknight newscasts with Kent Justice.