Ahmaud Arbery: Why were the killers not arrested for two whole months after the brutal slaying?
Gregory McMichael, 64, Travis McMichael, 34, shot dead Arbery on February 23 on a street in broad daylight while he was jogging
BRUNSWICK, GEORGIA: More than two months after the fatal shooting of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, the father and son duo who shot him were finally arrested and charged with murder on Thursday, May 7, by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
The suspects, 64-year-old Gregory McMichael and 34-year-old Travis McMichael, shot dead Arbery on February 23 on a street in broad daylight while he was jogging. The pair reportedly suspected him to be a burglar running around the neighborhood.
After a video of the assault was recently released on social media, the incident has sparked a widespread racial outcry in the country and has led many to question why the suspects were arrested only after the outrage.
Local prosecutors had reportedly refused to charge the pair initially. The viral clip appears to show the two white men were waiting for Arbery as he jogged down the street before opening fire. The pair have now been booked into the Glynn County Jail.
Why the delay in arrest?
The district attorney, who was previously assigned the Arbery's case, reportedly told police that he did not see grounds for an arrest of the McMichaels or the man who recorded the video of the incident from his vehicle, according to a memo obtained by USA Today.
Meanwhile, Arbery's family has said that their son was racially profiled in the incident and that the police did not initially pursue it because they considered Gregory McMichael, a retired police officer, as one of their own. Local officials and community leaders have also pointed out a history of nepotism and privilege in the district attorney offices of Waycross and Brunswick, which allowed Arbery's killers to remain free for this long.
Gregory is a former Glynn County police officer and also worked as an investigator with the Brunswick DA’s office before retiring in 2019.
Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George E. Barnhill, in the memo, said that Gregory, Travis, and their neighbor William Bryan were in "hot pursuit of a burglary suspect" when they shot and killed Arbery as he jogged through the Satilla Shores neighborhood just outside of Brunswick, Georgia.
The DA sent the memo to Glynn County Police Capt. Tom Jump, stating that the killers' response was "perfectly legal."
"It appears it was their intent to stop and hold this criminal suspect until law enforcement arrived. Under Georgia law, that is perfectly legal," Barnhill wrote in the memo. The DA, in the document, also identified Bryan, who is also white, as the man who shot the video of Arbery's killing.
Suspect knew the victim before killing
The DA, in the letter, also said that he was recusing himself from the case over a conflict of interest, adding that Arbery's mother wanted him off the case because his son, a prosecutor in the Brunswick DA's office, and Gregory, then an investigator in the same office, had "both helped with the previous prosecution of (Ahmaud) Arbery" when he was in high school.
While Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson has recused herself from the case because Gregory was a retired investigator from her office.
The president of the Brunswick National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Rev. John Perry II, in a statement, said: "You have relational connections that run back for generations. We believe the privilege of relationships caused the delay we are experiencing."
Arbery's case is currently being led by Atlantic Judicial Circuit District Attorney Tom Durden, who earlier this week, formally requested the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to probe the murder. The bureau took two days to investigate and arrest Gergory and Travis.
The video of the incident, which has gone viral on social media, was released by a criminal defense attorney in Brunswick, Alan Tucker. The attorney said that he released the video because "there was entirely too much speculation, rumor, false narratives and outright lies surrounding the event."
"My sole purpose in releasing the video was absolute transparency because my community was being ripped apart by erroneous accusations and assumptions," he said, adding that he has not been retained by either party in the case.