- Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son, Travis McMichael, 34, were arrested Thursday in connection with the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery.
- Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, was out running in Brunswick, Georgia, when the pair of white men grabbed two firearms and chased him.
- Arbery died of his gunshot wounds, the police said, but weeks passed without any arrests and prompted an outcry.
- “The probable cause was clear to our agents pretty quickly,” Vic Reynolds, the director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, said at a news conference on Friday.
- The pair have been charged with felony murder and aggravated assault.
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Agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said they found enough probable cause to arrest two white men in the February shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, within 36 hours of being handed the case.
“The probable cause was clear to our agents pretty quickly,” the agency’s director, Vic Reynolds, said at a news conference on Friday.
Arbery was out running in the Satilla Shores neighbourhood of Brunswick, Georgia, around 1 p.m. on February 23 when he was pursued by Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34, the police said.
They were armed, and Arbery was killed by the younger McMichael, GBI investigators said.
The agency announced on Thursday that both McMichaels faced charges of felony murder and aggravated assault. They were taken into custody around 7:45 p.m. and booked into the Glynn County Jail, Reynolds said.
“There’s sufficient probable cause to charge the McMichaels with felony murder and aggravated assault,” Reynolds said. “I can tell you that if we didn’t believe it, we wouldn’t have arrested them. If we believe it, then we’re going to put the bracelets on them, and that’s exactly what we did yesterday evening.”
The case is being investigated by District Attorney Tom Durden, a prosecutor in a neighbouring county, who plans to present the case to a grand jury. In the two months since Arbery died, two district attorneys have recused themselves over potential conflicts of interest, Reuters reported.
The GBI has obtained more evidence than the local police
Durden, who took over the case on April 13, said on Friday that there were “new developments” every day.
Reynolds said Durden contacted him on Tuesday night and asked him to look into the shooting. GBI agents “hit the ground running” on Wednesday, Reynolds said, acknowledging that it would have been ideal if the agency had been roped in initially. Reynolds said the GBI could get involved in a case only if it is requested to do so.
Now, he said, “all that matters is what the facts tell us.”
Reynolds said that while the police in Glynn County had gotten the investigation “to a good point,” the GBI pursued additional leads, recanvassed the neighbourhood, and interviewed more people – some for the first time.
Asked whether other arrests were pending, Reynolds said the investigation was “active” and “ongoing.”
He said that if the facts led the agents “to make another arrest in this case, then they will do that.”
“If the facts do not, then they won’t,” he added.
George Barnhill, one of the district attorneys who declined to prosecute the case, said in a letter to the police department that a witness named William Bryan filmed the video of Arbery’s killing. Reynolds on Friday called the footage “a very important piece of evidence.”
The bureau is “investigating everybody involved in the case, including the individual who shot the video,” as well as how it was leaked, he said.
‘Every stone will be turned over’
The McMichaels told the police that they spotted Arbery as he jogged by and mistook him for a suspect in a series of breaks-ins, a police report said. So they grabbed a shotgun and a.357 Magnum and followed him.
The Brunswick News reported that only one burglary was reported in the area between January 1 and the day Arbery died. The sole item stolen was a gun from Travis McMichael’s unlocked pickup truck.
Footage shows the McMichaels trying to block Arbery in while he tries to avoid them. Finally, they catch up to Arbery, stop the truck, and get out to confront him. An altercation ensued, shots ring out, and Arbery falls to the ground. He was unarmed.
“You look on that video, and it’s like it was a hunting party,” Ben Crump, one of the attorneys representing Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery Sr., told Insider.
The case has caused protests and uproar, with politicians, athletes, and celebrities decrying Arbery’s death and calling for justice.
Friday would have been Arbery’s 26th birthday, and people around the United States are running 2.23 miles – marking the day he died – to commemorate his life.
“When we believe if this was any other citizen, especially a citizen of colour, they would have been arrested because you have an unarmed man in a jogging attack,” Crump said. “He doesn’t have any burglary outfit or burglary tools or anything like that. I mean, he’s jogging, and this guy kills them, and they just take his word for it.”
Arbery’s father characterised the shooting as a “hate crime.”
“My young son wasn’t doing nothing – minding his own business, running and working out. And that’s a crime?” he told First Coast News.
Reynolds pointed out that Georgia doesn’t have a hate-crime statute.
But “every stone will be turned over,” he said. “I promise you.”
This article has been updated.
- Read more:
- Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed in broad daylight after an armed father and son chased him in the streets. Here’s everything we know about the case.
- 2 arrested in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. The attorney for Arbery’s father says if it was Arbery and his father who killed a white jogger they would have been arrested on the spot
- Family and friends of shooting victim Ahmaud Arbery are honouring his life with a 2.23-mile run after public outrage over his death led to two arrests
- Gregory and Travis McMichael arrested in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot dead while jogging unarmed in Georgia