Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed in Brunswick, Georgia, while jogging in a neighborhood on February 25 after he was chased down by two men, a father and son. The men, Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael, have not been charged. Video of the shooting was posted online on May 5, the same day that prosecutors said a grand jury will hear evidence in the case and decide if the McMichaels will face charges.
The 25-year-old Arbery was black. The McMichaels are white. Gregory McMichael, a 64-year-old former police officer and investigator for a local district attorney’s office, told police after the shooting that he and his 34-year-old son suspected Arbery was involved in burglaries that had occurred in the neighborhood, according to a police report released by the Glynn County Police Department. They chased him down in their pickup truck while armed with a handgun and shotgun. Travis McMichael shot Arbery because he believed he was being “violently attacked,” Gregory McMichael told police.
Arbery’s family and friends say he was not involved in any burglaries and it was a case of mistaken identity. Jason Vaughn, Arbery’s high school football coach, told WJXT-TV, “People are known for jogging in that area all the time and we all know Maud likes to jog the area. He would stop and, sometimes in the middle of his workout, he’d play basketball with the younger kids and at the game, he’d go back to jogging. That’s the kind of person he was.”
Here’s what you need to know about the video and the shooting:
The Video, Recorded by a Third Man Who Was in ‘Hot Pursuit’ With the McMichaels, Shows Arbery Running in the Street Before Before He Was Shot by Travis McMichael
The video of the shooting was leaked online and posted to YouTube on May 5. According to the New York Times, the video was recorded by a third man who had joined the McMichaels in “hot pursuit” of Arbery. The video had previously been turned over to investigators before it was made public.
In the video, which can be watched above, Arbery can be seen running down the middle of the road behind the McMichaels’ white pickup truck. The camera moves for two seconds and Arbery cannot be seen. Yelling can then be heard as Arbery runs around the right side of the truck and toward Travis McMichael, who was armed with a shotgun. A shot is fired and Arbery and Travis McMichael begin struggling over the shotgun while Gregory McMichael, who can be seen standing in the bed of the truck, draws his handgun.
A second gunshot can be heard while Arbery and Travis McMichael are outside of the video frame. The two men come back into the video and a third shot is heard. Arbery then stumbles away from Travis McMichael and collapses to the ground as the video ends.
Gregory McMichael Called 911 & Said ‘There’s a Black Man Running Down the Street’
The Glynn County Police Department incident report can be read here. According to the report, police were called about 1 p.m. on Sunday, February 23, to the area of Satilla Drive and Holmes Drive for shots fired. The responding officer said Arbery was found on the ground “bleeding out,” and he later died at the scene.
Gregory McMichael told the officer there had been several break-ins in the neighborhood where the burglar was caught on surveillance video. Gregory McMichael told the officer he was in his front yard and saw a man be believed to be a suspect in the burglaries “hauling ass” down Satilla Drive toward Buford Drive. According to the report:
McMichael stated he then ran inside his house and called to Travis (McMichael) and said, ‘Travis the guy is running down the street lets go.’ McMichael stated he then went to his bedroom and grabbed his .357 Magnum and Travis grabbed his shotgun because they ‘didn’t know if the male was armed or not.’ McMichael stated, ‘the other night’ they saw the same male and he stuck his hand down his pants which lead them to believe the male was armed.
Gregory McMichael told the officer he and his son got in their truck and drove down Satilla Drive toward Buford Drive when they saw the man, later identified as Arbery, running down the street. McMichael said his son drove down the street and tried to cut off Arbery. According to the report, McMichael said Arbery tried to turn around and run the other direction, where the man in the other truck, “Roddy,” tried to block him, but he was not successful.
McMichael told police he got into the bed of his truck and his son began driving after Arbery again. They saw him running again and shouted, “Stop, stop, we want to talk to you,” Gregory McMichael told police. He said his son pulled their truck alongside Arbery and again told him to stop. McMichael said his son then got out of the truck with his shotgun. According to McMichael, Arbery then began to “violently attack Travis,” and they began fighting over the shotgun.
McMichael told police his son fired a shot and a second shot before Arbery fell down to the street. McMichael said he went to check to see if Arbery had a gun. Arbery was not armed, according to police.
A transcript of a 911 call made by Gregory McMichael was obtained by WJXT-TV. In the call, McMichael said, “I’m out here at Satilla Shores and there’s a black man running down the street.”
The 911 dispatcher replied, “I just need to know what he was doing wrong, was he just on the premises and not supposed to be?” McMichael answered, “And he’s been caught on the camera a bunch before at night. It’s an ongoing thing out here.”
An Attorney for Arbery’s Family Says the Video Shows ‘This Is Murder’
Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney who is representing Arbery’s family, said in a statement after the video surfaced online, “The series of events captured in this video confirm what all the evidence indicated prior to its release— Ahmaud Arbery was pursued by three white men that targeted him solely because of his race and murdered him without justification. This is murder.”
Merritt said the McMichaels, whom he called “armed assailants,” tried to block Arbery’s path with their truck while he was running and then confronted him with the shotgun. Merritt said the video shows Arbery trying to avoid the “armed strangers” before the first shot is fired.
“Mr. Arbery then appears to collide with the attacking gunman, now known to be Travis McMichael,” Merritt said. “Mr. Arbery then struggles for the gun and in defense of his life. At this point, Travis McMichael shoots Mr. Arbery two additional times with shotgun at point-blank range. Mr. Arbery collapses to the ground while still trying to escape his attackers.”
Merritt added, “Mr. Arbery had not committed any crime and there was no reason for these men to believe they had the right to stop him with weapons or to use deadly force in furtherance of their unlawful attempted stop. This is murder.”
Arbery’s Father Says His Son Ran Everyday
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper told CNN her son jogged and ran everyday and she never worried about him because he wasn’t bothering anyone. Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “My kid was murdered. That’s all I can say. He ran like that every day – all his life. He ran in his neighborhood and that one too. That’s the only place he ever had a problem.”
A Facebook page, “I Run With Maud,” has been started to organize support for Arbery and his family and to call for charges to be brought against the McMichaels.
Arbery’s friend, Demetris Frazier, told WJXT-TV, “It’s not about one race. We are all a community and we see this as a tragedy to the community. It’s not about black about white. We can’t make this about race. It’s about what’s right and wrong and what happened.”
The Case Has Been Passed Between Multiple Agencies Because of Gregory McMichael’s Ties to Law Enforcement
The case has been passed among multiple law enforcement agencies and prosecutor’s offices because of Gregory McMichael’s ties to law enforcement. He recently retired as an investigator with the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s office and he was previously a Glynn County Police Department officer.
Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson recused herself from the case and it was given to Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill. He also recused himself because his son works in the Brunswick prosecutor’s office. Tom Durden, the prosecutor for the Atlantic Judicial Circuit, is now handling the case.
Durden issued a statement on May 5 he plans to present the case to a grand jury in Glynn County when courts reopen.
Before recusing himself, Barnhill said in a letter there was no probable cause for charges because the McMichaels were legally carrying their firearms under Georgia’s open carry law, according to The New York Times. He also said the father and son were within their rights to pursue a “burglary suspect” and attempt to make a citizen’s arrest. He wrote, according to The Times, Georgia law says, “a private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge.”
Barnhill also said Travis McMichael was “allowed to use deadly force to protect himself.” The letter also mentions that Arbery has prior convictions and mental health issues. The family’s attorney, Merritt, told CNN, “The reference to … alleged conduct from high school or shoplifting is absurd and has nothing to do with his murder.”
Merritt said in a statement, “There is no reasonable argument justifying the murder of Mr. Arbery.” Merritt said the Brunswick Police Department’s failure to arrest the McMichaels after seeing the video “violated their duty to the people of Brunswick, Georgia.” He added:
While this video was withheld, a false narrative was constructed where the victim was slandered as a criminal with mental health concerns. The Glynn County Police Department has both the authority and the legal imperative to make an arrest today pending the presentation of this case to a grand jury. The newly assigned DA, Tom Durden, has concluded this case must be brought before a grand jury for a criminal indictment. Due to (the) Georgia Supreme Court decision to suspended grand juries temporarily due to the pandemic, these men must be taken into custody pending their indictment.
Officials have not commented about the video. It is not clear if the McMichaels have hired attorneys and they have not commented about the shooting or the video footage.