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Ahmaud Arbery killing: Accused ex-cop knew jogger and had previously investigated him

64-year-old Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael shot dead Arbery on February 23 on a street in broad daylight while he was jogging
Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael (Glynn County Detention Center)
Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael (Glynn County Detention Center)

One of the suspects in 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery's murder case, retired police officer Gregory McMichael, may have known the victim long before their fatal encounter in the south of Brunswick, according to reports. 

A father and son duo, 64-year-old Gregory 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. They were finally arrested on Thursday, May 7, more than two months after the killing, as a video of the shooting went viral on social media, sparking countrywide outrage and speculation on their pending arrests.

Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill, who was initially handed the case, had recused himself stating a conflict of interest. Barnhill, in his letter of recusal to Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, had written, that his own son,  a prosecutor in the Brunswick DA’s office, and Gregory, then an investigator in the same office, “both helped with the previous prosecution of Arbery," according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

After the brutal killing, Gregory, a former police officer at Glynn County, told Glynn police that he suspected Arbery to have been involved in a recent burglary in his neighborhood and that he had planned to make a citizen's arrest. Gregory, however, did not mention his work on the particular investigation linked to Arbery to police. It is not yet known whether he remembered the probe at the time. 

Arbery, when he was in high school, was reportedly sentenced to five years of probation as a first offender on charges of carrying a weapon on campus and multiple counts of obstructing a law enforcement officer. Arbery, in 2018, was convicted of probation violation after he was charged with shoplifting, according to court documents.

Barnhill, in his recusal letter, wrote that he learned about his son and Gregory's ties to Arbery nearly "three of four weeks" earlier. He, however, did not mention why he waited so long to recuse himself from the case.

The DA, before the recusal, had 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.
Barnhill's recusal was requested by Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, but she told the outlet that she had not known that the DA's son or Gregory had worked on Ahmaud's case previously. "I just looked him up on Facebook and saw this son worked for the Brunswick DA," she said. 

Cooper Jones' attorney, Lee Merritt, said that her request for the DA's recusal was a crucial decision and that without it "the case would’ve been no billed to a grand jury and the McMichaels would’ve gotten away with murder."

Local officials and community leaders 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 more than two months. 

Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael have now been booked into the Glynn County Jail on charges of murder.