On Wednesday, a grand jury in Georgia indicted the three white men charged for the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, who was black. Arbery was shot three times while jogging in a residential neighborhood on February 23.
Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William Bryan were each indicted on one count of malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
If convicted, the defendants could face lifetime imprisonment or the death penalty.
Joyette Holmes, the district attorney appointed to the case said, “This is another step forward in seeking justice for Ahmaud. We will continue to be intentional in the pursuit of justice for this family and the community at large as the prosecution of this case continues.”
Arbery was outside jogging in Brunswick, Georgia when Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael chased after him in a white truck and fatally shot him following a brief scuffle. Bryan followed the pair in his own vehicle, recording the confrontation.
No charges were filed for months after.
On May 5, a 36-second cellphone video filmed by Bryan, surfaced online sparking national outcry. The footage showed Arbery attempting to go around the McMichaels’ truck. A brief confrontation ensued during which Arbery was shot three times.
Three days after the release of the video, charges against the McMichaels were filed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI).
In April, Gregory McMichael told the authorities in Brunswick that they had chased Arbery because he resembled a suspect responsible for “several recent break-ins in the neighborhood.”
However, Brunswick law enforcement reported that there had been no break-ins for nearly two months before Arbery’s killing.
Gregory McMichael further added that his son had shot Arbery in self-defense after Arbery “violently” attacked him.
However, at a preliminary hearing on June 4, GBI agent Richard Dial testified that it was Arbery who had acted in self-defense.
“I believe Mr. Arbery was being pursued, and he ran till he couldn’t run anymore, and it was turn his back to a man with a shotgun or fight with his bare hands against the man with the shotgun. He chose to fight.”
I believe Mr. Arbery’s decision was to just try to get away, and when he felt like he could not escape he chose to fight,” said Dial.
Dial further testified that Bryan told investigators that Travis McMichael had uttered a racial slur after fatally shooting Arbery.
In an email to The Associated Press (AP), Travis McMichael’s attorney Bob Rubin wrote in an email that Travis would plead not guilty.
Rubin wrote, “To this indictment, Travis McMichael will plead not guilty, and we look forward to presenting all of the facts regarding this tragic death in a court of law” adding that the defense team had found other facts “that are an integral part of the case.”
Gregory McMichael’s legal team on the other hand, stated that their client was a victim of rash judgment.
According to documents from the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office, Gregory is a former law enforcement officer who was stripped of his certification and authority to arrest a year before for not completing his use of force training.
Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, told the reporters at the courthouse that although his client’s legal team welcomes the jury’s decision, it disagrees with the indictment.
“We welcome the action of the grand jury today. While we disagree with it, it’s an important step in the process to moving this case closer to the speedy trial that [Bryan] has demanded.”
The GBI filed charges against Bryan later on May 18 stating that Bryan had used his vehicle multiple times in an attempt to “confine and detain” Arbery before his death. Bryan’s attorney has repeatedly stated that his client was only a witness.
Referring to the indictment, Arbery’s family attorney Benjamin Crump said in a statement, “This confirms what Ahmaud’s father has been saying for months — that this was a lynching. This is a significant step on the road to justice and while nothing will bring back Ahmaud’s life, it is important that a Grand jury recognized his life had value and was wrongly and ruthlessly ended.”
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