Ahmaud Arbery’s Killing Will Go to Grand Jury as Graphic Video Emerges

The Four Percent


ATLANTA — A Georgia prosecutor said on Tuesday that a grand jury should decide whether to bring charges in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old unarmed black man who was pursued by two white men and shot in southern Georgia in February, as video of the encounter spread widely online.

“After careful review of the evidence,” the prosecutor, Tom Durden, of Georgia’s Atlantic Judicial Circuit, wrote in a statement, “I am of the opinion that the case should be presented to the grand jury of Glynn County for consideration of criminal charges.”

A graphic video of the shooting surfaced on Tuesday. Taken from inside a vehicle, it shows Mr. Arbery running along a shaded two-lane residential road when he comes upon a white truck, with a man standing beside its open driver’s-side door. Another man is in the bed of the pickup. Mr. Arbery runs around the truck and disappears briefly from view. Muffled shouting can be heard before Mr. Arbery emerges, tussling with the man outside the truck as three shotgun blasts echo.

In a statement, S. Lee Merritt, a lawyer for Mr. Arbery’s family, said the video showed that a crime was committed by Mr. Arbery’s pursuers. “This is murder,” Mr. Merritt said. “The series of events captured in this video confirm what all the evidence indicated prior to its release.”

According to a police report, one of the men, Gregory McMichael, said that he saw Mr. Arbery running through his neighborhood and thought that he looked like the suspect in a rash of nearby break-ins. Mr. McMichael, 64, told the authorities that he and his son, Travis McMichael, 34, armed themselves and began chasing him in a truck.

Mr. Arbery’s family and friends said Mr. Arbery was an avid jogger, and they do not believe he committed a crime before being chased.

Anger over the case has been building among civil rights activists and others, with the Rev. Al Sharpton calling for an investigation, and state and local N.A.A.C.P. leaders calling for the arrest of the McMichaels.

“This is very grave and very serious judicial malpractice,” James Woodall, the president of the Georgia N.A.A.C.P., said on Tuesday afternoon.

In a statement, Andrea Young, executive director of the A.C.L.U. of Georgia, said “the vigilante behavior that we saw in Brunswick is unacceptable in a civilized society.”

A spokesman for the Glynn County Police Department could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Mr. Durden said in a statement that the case should go before a Glynn County grand jury once the state judicial system allows such bodies to be empaneled again. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Georgia Supreme Court has prohibited grand juries from meeting through June 12.

Mr. Durden said he made his decision after “careful review of the evidence,” and after consulting with the Glynn County Police Department, the F.B.I., the United States attorney for the Southern District of Georgia and the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia.

Mr. Durden is the third prosecutor to be assigned to the case after the first two recused themselves because of professional ties to Gregory McMichael.

Mr. McMichael had recently retired after a long career as an investigator in the Brunswick district attorney’s office. He had also worked for seven years as an officer in the Glynn County Police Department.

One of the prosecutors who was previously assigned to the case, George E. Barnhill of the Waycross Judicial District, had advised the police that there was insufficient probable cause to arrest Mr. Arbery’s pursuers, arguing that they had acted legally under the state’s citizen arrest and self-defense statutes, according to documents obtained by The New York Times.

Mr. Barnhill eventually asked to be removed from the case because his son worked in the Waycross prosecutor’s office with Gregory McMichael.

Mr. McMichael told the police that he and his son pulled up near Mr. Arbery, that his son got out of the truck with the shotgun, and that his son and Mr. Arbery then fought over the weapon, “at which point Travis fired a shot and then a second later there was a second shot.”

Last month, Travis McMichael declined to comment, citing the investigation. Attempts to reach Gregory McMichael were unsuccessful.

In a letter to the Police Department, Mr. Barnhill described a video made by a third man who had joined the McMichaels in “hot pursuit” of Mr. Arbery. Mr. Merritt, the lawyer for Mr. Arbery’s family, said he believed that the video disseminated on Tuesday was the same one Mr. Barnhill mentioned.

The video is about a half-minute long and appears to be taken by someone riding or driving in a vehicle as it heads down a street in Satilla Shores.

In the video, the man standing in the bed of the truck is armed with a pistol and the man standing beside the driver’s door is holding a shotgun. He can be seen wrestling with Mr. Arbery in the street.

A gunshot is heard, and the two men momentarily disappear from the frame. Then there is the sound of a second gunshot. As the two men fight, a third shot is fired. Mr. Arbery tries to run, but staggers and falls to the pavement after a few steps.



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