Ahmaud Arbery: Georgia prosecutor blocked arrest of father-son duo who killed jogger, commissioners claim
Two Glynn County commissioners have claimed that Brunswick DA Jackie Johnson told them not to make the arrests at the time
A district attorney in Georgia allegedly blocked law enforcement from arresting the father-son duo accused of murdering an unarmed jogger because of her supposed friendship with one of them. However, she has since denied the claims.
Former police detective Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis, 34, were charged with murder and aggravated assault on Thursday, more than two months after they shot dead Ahmaud Arbery, 25. The investigation into the February 23 incident appeared stalled until a video of the shooting was leaked this week and shared widely on social media, sparking nationwide outrage.
The McMichaels appeared before a judge for the first time on Friday via video link from inside Glynn County jail, where they are being held. The judge ruled that a superior court judge would have to set bond on both charges.
According to police investigating the scene of the fatal shooting, they had told Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson's office they had probable cause to arrest both father and son. However, two Glynn County commissioners have now claimed that Johnson told them not to make the arrests at the time.
It also emerged that Gregory McMichael had previously worked as an investigator in her office until he retired last year.
"The police at the scene went to her, saying they were ready to arrest both of them," Glynn County Commissioner Allen Booker told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "These were the police at the scene who had done the investigation.
"She shut them down to protect her friend McMichael," he added.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Peter Murphy said he spoke directly to Glynn County police about the incident.
"They were told not to make the arrest," he added.
However, Johnson refuted claims made by Murphy and Booker in a lengthy statement.
“Under Georgia law, the district attorney has no arrest powers. Rather, it is the duty and obligation of the law enforcement officer to determine probable cause for arrest," she explained.
Here is D.A. Jackie Johnson's statement:
It is unfortunate that Commissioners Murphy and Booker have chosen to make false accusations against District Attorney Jackie Johnson in an attempt to make excuses and ignore the problems at the Glynn County Police Department, for which they are ultimately responsible.
Acting Police Chief Jay Wiggins has indicated that it was a mistake that then-Police Chief John Powell did not immediately call in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate the death of Ahmaud Arbery.
As evidenced by the events of this week, the GBI was able to investigate, make a probable cause determination, and make arrests within two days of receiving the case. That is what a law enforcement agency does. If the Glynn County Police Department is unable to make a probable cause determination on its own, why do we have a Police Department?
Under Georgia law, the District Attorney has no arrest powers. Rather, it is the duty and obligation of the law enforcement officer to determine probable cause for arrest.
The District Attorney is available to advise on the law. Our District Attorney's office’s willingness to assist law enforcement officers on matters of law is now being used by the Glynn County Police Department as an excuse to pass the buck and fail to act.
When two Assistant District Attorneys were contacted by the Glynn County Police Department on February 23, 2020, they immediately cited a conflict of interest and stated our office could not be involved. Our office offered to facilitate getting assistance from another District Attorney's office.
At no time on February 23, 2020, did District Attorney Jackie Johnson have any conversation with any Glynn County police officer about this case. Further, no Assistant District Attorney in the office directed any Glynn County police officer not to make an arrest.
While our office did assist in putting the Glynn County Police Department in contact with the District Attorney in the Waycross Circuit, we did not direct his actions or appoint him to the case. Rather, that was done by the Attorney General’s Office of the State of Georgia. Our office made the Attorney-General aware of our conflict and recusal by letter on February 25, 2020.
The McMichaels were arrested this week at their Brunswick residence only after the video, reportedly recorded by McMichael's neighbor William Bryan, was leaked.
This followed a major public outcry, thereby prompting the Georgia Bureau of Investigations to get involved and facilitate the arrests, according to a report by The Sun.