Ahmaud Arbery’s mom ‘overwhelmed’ by Kemp’s call to change Georgia law

Governor urges Legislature to repeal and replace Civil War-era citizen’s arrest law

VIDEO: Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Jones, is praising Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposal to overhaul the state’s citizen arrest law.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Jones, is praising Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposal to overhaul the state’s citizen arrest law.

“I was overwhelmed,” Jones said the day after the announcement. Despite losing her son, when she heard what Kemp said, “I was happy.”

Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law has been in place since 1863. Jones said it’s sad it took the shooting death of her son as he jogged through the Satilla Shores neighborhood last February to bring forth calls for it to change. A father and son, Gregory and Travis McMichael, were pursuing Ahmaud and shot him to death.

When the viral video of Ahmaud’s death was released in May, it shocked not only the Brunswick community but the nation.

“The measures that the McMichaels took said that they were making a citizen’s arrest, but clearly they had not seen Ahmaud commit any crime at all,” Jones said.

On Tuesday, Kemp called for the repeal and replacement of what he called an “antiquated law.”

“Ahmaud was a victim of vigilante-style violence that has no place in Georgia,” Kemp said.

After reviewing the preliminary investigation of the case last March, Waycross State Attorney George Barnhill told police the McMichael’s acted in the scope of state law, which says:

In a letter to the Glynn County Police Department, Barnhill wrote Travis McMichael fired his weapon in self-defense, adding, “We do not see grounds for an arrest.”

But, that’s not how state investigators saw the case. In May, less than 48 hours after the Georgia Bureau of Investigations was asked to open an investigation, it arrested both Travis and Greg McMichael. Later, the owner of a home Arbery was seen going into the day of his death, told News4Jax there is no evidence Arbery stole anything from his property.

“I would have to say so it was implemented because this is the Civil War this is the time there was prejudice and racism without measures and I’m thinking it was put in place for people that look like me,” Jones said.

Kemp says his proposed legislation would:

  • Close “dangerous” loopholes in the law.
  • Make it more clear when a person, business owner or police can detain someone committing a crime.
  • Allow security guards and store or restaurant employees to hold people who they believe committed a crime for up to an hour until police arrive.
  • Not allow deadly force unless it’s in self-protection, protecting a home or prevent a felony.

“I am pleased for this change. Unfortunately, we lost Ahmaud, but Ahmaud is implementing change,” Jones said.

Next Tuesday marks the one year since Arbery’s death. Jones said she’s holding a candlelight vigil Tuesday in Waynesboro, Georgia, where her son is laid to rest. The family is asking people to wear a blue ribbon to represent love, peace and justice.

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Multi-media journalist with a special interest in Georgia issues.