Quote from S. Lee Merritt, an attorney for the Arbery family.
This post has been updated. Please go here for latest information and actions.
Update 5/8: Thanks to the huge public reaction to the cellphone video of a young black man being murdered-while-jogging, the two men involved have finally been arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault. We are waiting on whether William Bryan, the third man who followed Arbery, filmed the incident, will be charged, as well.
We also now know that the former attorney for the Gregory and Travis McMichaels, Alan David Tucker, was the one who released the video on Tuesday.
For all of you who took the time to sign the petition below and make calls and emails to protest this injustice, thank you. We shouldn’t have to ring phones off the desks, but we will.
Action – Sign the petition.
73 days ago, Ahmaud Arbery, a 25 year-old black man, left his mom’s home for his daily jog. He was chased down and killed by well-armed two white men, a retired police office and his son. Because of the lockdown constraints on local protests, Ahmaud’s family and friends worried that his brutal murder would go unnoticed and that no one would be held to account. But we have phones and computers and we, along with many others, have noticed. (Warning – the video below shows an innocent person being murdered. Skip over and go straight to the actions as necessary.)
Petition: Go to RunWithMaud.com (sponsored by The Action Pac, which supports campaigns to stop racism and bigotry in America) and sign a petition to demand that the Department of Justice and FBI investigate and charge both father and son. The petition is also demanding that the District Attorney stop passing the buck to a grand jury on an obvious murder case and bring charges and request that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation investigate the case.
Action #2 – Make the calls
(There are instructions in the call itself, but for those who need something to read, we’ve put together some scripts to help. Remember, stay polite and focused. If anyone asks why you’re interested in a case so far away, quote some truth from Martin Luther King.
Minimal script for the federal call: I’m calling to advocate on behalf of Ahmaud Arbery, a young man who was murdered in broad daylight by two white men with deep ties to local law enforcement. I demand that this case be investigated as the hate crime it is.
Minimal script for the local call: I’m calling to advocate on behalf of Ahmaud Arbery. The District Attorney currently responsible for the case, Tom Durden, needs to arrest and bring charges against George and Travis McMichael immediately and request that a special prosecutor take over the case.
Contact: Click this link or call directly to 770-800-0689 to be connected to a series of local, state and federal offices.
WTH happened here?
On Feb. 23, Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was on his daily jog in a Brunswick, GA neighborhood when a former police officer, Gregory McMichael, and his son Travis grabbed their guns and chased him down in their pickup truck, telling him that they wanted to “talk to him” regarding a series recent break-ins in the area. After leaving Arbery dead in the street, Gregory McMichael told police he had seen the same man “the other night” and that he stuck his hand down his pants on that occasion, leading McMichael to believe he was armed, according to a Glynn County Police report.
First, DA Jackie L. Johnson, the prosecutor for the Brunswick judicial district recused herself. Gregory McMichael had worked in her office as an investigator. (The Georiga NAACP on said that she should have arrested Travis and Gregory McMichael for murder and have called for her resignation.) DA Johnson’s statement here. (2 images)
(Spoiler alert: The video you saw above has been available to police and investigators since the day of the crime.)
Next, the case was reassigned to the district attorney in Waycross, Georgia – George E. Barnhill. After receiving the autopsy report on 4/1/2020, he wrote a letter to Glynn County police (letter here), stating that the McMichaels were within in their rights to pursue “a burglary suspect,” and “allowed to use deadly force to protect himself” under Georgia law. (Not true. This is the real law here.) S. Lee Merrett stated “The decision to rely on the citizen’s arrest statute is really a recent invention, prior to that they just simply said it was self-defense.” Merritt says now the men are trying to use the law to say they were trying to stop a crime. “According to that law, you actually have to be observing the crime or be in the immediate knowledge of the crime. The only thing they have ever said is … that Ahmaud stopped by a house that was under construction and he looked through the window. We don’t know if that happened or not, but even if that did happen that is not a felony that would invoke the citizen’s arrest statute that would make this allowable.”)
Next comes the criminalization of the victim, designed to make it seem perfectly reasonable that he deserved an impromptu death sentence for deciding to jog that sunny day. (Remember that the public hadn’t seen the video he’s describing in his letter yet.)
DA Barnhill stated in his letter that “Arbury’s mental health records & prior convictions help explain his apparent aggressive nature and his possible thought pattern to attack an armed man.” Arbery had been convicted of shoplifting and five years earlier, he’d been indicted on charges that he took a handgun to a high school basketball game. Merrett stated that “The reference to… alleged conduct from high school or shoplifting is absurd and has nothing to do with his murder.”
However, these details are necessary to explain why a unarmed black man, suddenly faced with a vehicle cutting across his path, two white men yelling at him and advancing upon him with visible weapons, could now be considered the aggressor in the story, and not the victim. Barnhill concluded his written defense of the McMichaels’ behavior with “…it is our conclusion there is insufficient probable cause to issue arrest warrents at this time.”
Without access to the video, Arbery’s mother could only believe the Glynn County deputies who told her that her son was shot while burglarizing a home by the homeowner. Greg McMichael was listed as a “witness” in the report. Then she learned of McMichael’s close connection to local law enforcement and that DA Barnhill’s son had worked with the prosecutor Jackie Johnson. Barnhill was then forced to recuse himself from the case.
Third times the charm, PLUS someone leaked the video: After Barnhill’s recusal, the state attorney general’s office assigned the case to Hinesvilles, GA prosecutor, Tom Durden. Durden decided to punt, sending the case to a grand jury, whenever they were able to reconvene. Interestingly, it’s the same day, May 5th, that the graphic cellphone video, showing the deadly confrontation that contradicts the McMichaels’ story, was leaked to the public. It is possible that the case might have been dismissed without the publicity from the video. Merritt said a “false narrative was constructed where the victim was slandered as a criminal with mental health concerns.” (Both Durden’s press release and Merrett’s letter are attached below.)
“It’s gone international now,” said Gerald Griggs, an attorney with the Atlanta NAACP. “There’s some serious anger out there…This case was all kinds of backward. That video should’ve been shown to a magistrate by the police and an arrest warrant should’ve been issued for (the McMichaels).”
On Tuesday evening about 200 protesters, some wearing protective face masks, marched in Arbery’s honor on the street where he was shot. Kevin Smith, Arbery’s first cousin, led the march, alternating between angry demands of vengeance and calls for peace. “We want the media to see that we’re together, we’re not breaking windows. We’re not these other cities. We’re having a conversation.”
Neither McMichael has been arrested yet.
(Attached are Durden’s press release and that of the Arbery family’s attorney.)