A Georgia prosecutor will convene a grand jury to determine if any murder charges will be filed against Greg and Travis McMichael in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery.
District Attorney Tim Durden announced he would present the case to the grand jury, hours after a dash cam video, that showed the fatal shooting, was uploaded to YouTube.
The video footage shows Arbery running at a jogger’s pace along a leafy street in Brunswick’s south end on Feb. 23. Up ahead of him, a pickup truck idled in the roadway.
Arbery attempted to run around the truck but he was confronted by Travis McMichael, 34, who was armed with a shotgun. While Travis confronted Arbery in the street, Greg McMichael, 64, aimed his .357 Magnum at Arbery.
Shouting is heard and Arbery and Travis are seen struggling over the long gun. Three shots are fired — two from the shotgun and one shot from the .357 Magnum. The last shot, fired by Travis, struck Arbery in the chest.
The 25-year-old stumbled a few feet away and collapsed face down in the street. He died where he fell, bleeding out on the pavement.
The video renewed angry calls for murder charges against Greg McMichael and his son Travis McMichael, who are Caucasian.
“As I’ve stated, before this was instigated and perpetrated by the shooters,” said Brunswick NAACP President John Davis Perry, II. “They placed him in a position in which he had to fight for his life. This video is appalling!”
Greg McMichael, a former Glynn County cop, said he acted in self-defense when Arbery tried to disarm his son. McMichael told police Arbery was “hauling ass” down the street after he was spotted in a neighborhood where homes had been burglarized in the past.
McMichael, who recently retired as an investigator with the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office, told police they followed Arbery because they believed he was responsible for home break-ins.
Durden’s grand jury announcement was welcome news to Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, 47.
She was on the phone with Glynn County Commissioner Allen Booker when she heard about the video circulating online.
“They must pay for killing this innocent young man, after hunting him down like a dog,” Booker said.
Arbery’s supporters have compared his case to the 2013 shooting of unarmed Trayvon Martin by an overzealous neighborhood watchman, who was later acquitted.
Attorney Benjamin Crump, who represented Trayvon’s parents, announced Tuesday he is now representing Arbery’s father.
George E. Barnhill, the district attorney for Georgia’s Waycross Judicial Circuit, recused himself from the case, as did Greg McMichael’s former boss, Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson. Barnhill’s son works as a prosector in Johnson’s office.
Barnhill stated a video exists that shows Arbery burglarizing a home that was under construction and only partially closed in.
In a letter to the prosecutor, Barnhill said because Arbery was a “burglary suspect,” the McMichael had “probable cause” to chase him under the state’s citizen’s arrest law.
Barnhill concluded Travis McMichael “was allowed to use deadly force to protect himself.”
He said Arbery may have caused his own death by pulling on the weapon while fighting for control of it. Barnhill also cited Arbery’s “mental health records” and prior convictions on weapons charges, obstructing an officer, and shoplifting.
Michael J. Moore, an Atlanta lawyer, told the New York Times in an email that Barnhill’s opinion is “flawed”.
Moore said the McMichaels appear to be the aggressors in the confrontation, and they were not justified in using deadly force under Georgia’s self-defense laws.
“The law does not allow a group of people to form an armed posse and chase down an unarmed person who they believe might have possibly been the perpetrator of a past crime,” Moore wrote.
Cooper-Jones said her son should not be judged on his criminal past.
“I knew [old charges] was coming out,” she said. “He wouldn’t harm a flea. His spirit was so humble. I think I raised him well.”