Ahmaud Arbery: Mother says Georgia cops would've 'covered up' murder had viral video not surfaced
The 25-year-old was shot and killed by Gregory and Travis McMichael on February 23 in Brunswick, Georgia
The mother of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old Georgia man who was shot dead by a father-son duo in Brunswick, Georgia, believes officials would have covered up her son's murder if it weren't for the viral video that captured the whole encounter.
Wanda Cooper-Jones said that, after the February 23 shooting, a detective contacted her and told her that her son had been involved in a burglary and had been shot by the homeowner after a tussle. She said she believed the story at the time because she did not think that investigators had any reason to lie to her. However, when she started looking at the circumstances surrounding his shooting, she realized she had not been given the complete picture.
At the time, Gregory and Travis McMichael, the father-son duo who had chased down and shot Arbery as he was jogging down the quiet neighborhood of Satilla Shores, had claimed to police there had been burglaries in the area and that the 25-year-old had seemed like the suspect.
Gregory said he asked Arbery to stop but that he did not listen, and instead, "violently" attacked his son. The two then fought "over the shotgun" before Travis shot him twice.
Cooper-Jones said she spent "weeks and weeks" waiting for some action to be taken against the McMichaels but nothing happened.
The first district attorney on whose desk the case landed, Jackie Johnson, recused herself because Gregory had previously worked in her office as an investigator. The second, Waycross DA George Barnhill, also recused himself on Cooper-Jones' request after she found out through Facebook that he also had worked for the Brunswick District Attorney's Office where Gregory worked.
After doing so, however, Barnhill told Glynn County Police Capt. Tom Jump that Arbery's "autopsy supports the initial opinion we gave you on Feb. 24th, 2020, at the briefing room in the Glynn County Police Department after reviewing the evidence you had at that time. We do not see grounds for an arrest of any of the three parties."
The third "party" was William Roddy Bryan, a neighbor of the McMichaels who had captured their fatal encounter with Arbery on video. That video was leaked late in April and went viral on social media, bringing the case back into the spotlight and to the attention of national media.
The outrage that followed prompted a third DA, as well as the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to get involved in the case. Less than 48 hours after the GBI launched its inquiry, the McMichaels were arrested on felony murder and aggravated assault charges.
"I believe it would have been covered up [if not for the video]," said Cooper-Jones. "This is a place that I have lived in for many years and I never thought I would ever experience this."
Lee Merritt, an attorney working for her family, said he believes Bryan should be arrested and charged as well and that he does not buy his excuse that he was just a good samaritan who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"If he was a good Samaritan, he would have honked his horn. It's worth noting that on the video, he doesn't even flinch. He doesn't gasp. Shot after shot. He simply takes it all in," he argued.
The case has led to allegations of racism and cronyism, and while Cooper-Jones admits she knew about its existence in society, it was not something she thought would lead to the loss of her son's life.
"I do think there are prejudices and racism, but I never worried about my son," she said. "Maybe he would be pulled over by a cop in his car, but never did I worry that he would be out jogging and shot."