Ahmaud Arbery: Gregory McMichael was twice suspended as law enforcement officer for missing firearms training
The former law enforcement officer involved in the fatal shooting of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery was stripped of his law enforcement certification and power to arrest a year before the deadly encounter, it has been revealed. Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34, were arrested last week and charged with felony murder and aggravated assault over the February 23 confrontation after a video of it went viral on social media. It was then revealed that two prosecutors had recused themselves from the case because of past professional connections with Gregory, who had worked for the Glynn County Police Department and the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, both of which had jurisdiction over the Satilla Shores neighborhood where Arbery was killed.
One of those prosecutors, George Barnhill of Waycross Judicial Court, had recused himself in a controversial letter addressed to the police department where he argued that the father-son duo's actions were lawful under Georgia's citizen's arrest and self-defense statutes because they thought Arbery was a burglar. He said because Arbery was a "burglary suspect," the McMichaels were within their rights to follow him, and were able as private persons to "arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge". He also said there was no probable cause for an arrest because the McMichaels had been legally carrying their weapons under state law.
Documents obtained by the Washington Post revealed that the 64-year-old's law enforcement certification was suspended in February after repeated failures to complete the required training, including a 2014 warning that he had neglected to finish mandatory firearms and use-of-force courses.
The documents, obtained from the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney's Office, also indicate he was stripped of his powers to arrest people not once, but twice.
The first occasion was in the beginning of January 2006, because of an undisclosed infraction from the previous year, and the second was in February 2019, when the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) issued a suspension order for "failure to maintain training for the year 2018." The council notified district attorney Jackie Johnson, the first DA to recuse herself from the Arbery shooting and Gregory's boss at the time, that he had fallen short in various types of training hours in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2010. He had not completed the mandated use-of-force and firearms training in at least three of those years as well.
In a June 2014 letter to Mitch Jones, the Georgia POST director, Johnson acknowledged the faults and wrote, "This situation has been a great embarrassment to me and to Investigator McMichael. It has negatively impacted my office, and I have taken measures to ensure that it doesn't happen again. Please accept my sincere apology." Following the February 2019 notification, Gregory agreed to give up his badge and weapon and was reclassified as a non-sworn employee who was assigned to work in the Camden County District Attorney's office. In a memo he and other officials in the district attorney's office signed the same month, it was stated that he "will not engage in any activity that would be construed as being law enforcement in nature."
"To that end, Mr. McMichael will not carry a firearm or badge, nor will he operate any vehicle in the motor pool outfitted with lights, siren or police radio equipment." He eventually retired in June 2019, four months after the suspension of his law enforcement certification. Both he and his son are now being held at the Glynn County Detention Center as they await trial in Arbery's shooting.