In just 36 hours, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation managed to do something that other agencies failed to do over the past 74 days: Find enough probable cause to arrest Gregory and Travis McMichael and charge the father and son with murder and aggravated assault in the death of Ahmaud Arbery.
During a press conference Friday, GBI Director Vic Reynolds told reporters that the agency was handed the case by Atlantic Judicial Circuit District Attorney Tom Durden on Tuesday evening. The investigation began early Wednesday morning and they spent most of the day going through the investigative file. On Thursday, they canvassed the neighborhood where the crime took place and conducted interviews. By that evening, they believed probable cause had been established to place Travis and Gregory McMichael under arrest for felony murder and aggravated assault.
When pressed on why they were able to do in 36 hours what prior agencies had failed to do over the last 74 days, Reynolds said: “I can’t speak on what anyone else sees or doesn’t see about a case, but I will tell you that we base our decision on two things. One are facts, the other law. Whatever the facts are, we apply the law to it. I’m very comfortable in telling you that there’s more than sufficient probable cause for felony murder in this case.”
The GBI was asked to get involved in the case after a video went viral of Travis McMichael shooting and killing Arbery, 25, who was jogging through the mostly white suburb of Satilla Shores neighborhood just outside of Brunswick, Ga., on Feb. 23. The video led to public outcry and calls for tougher hate crime laws.
Reynolds stressed that this is still an ongoing investigation. There has been much speculation about the involvement of the person who recorded the video of Arbery’s death. “Don’t know yet,” Reynolds said when asked if the person who shot the video would be taken into custody. “We’re going to go wherever the evidence takes us. Let’s say hypothetically if we believe tomorrow or in a week or three weeks there’s probable cause for an arrest, then we’ll do it.”
Durden stressed that public opinion did not play a role in getting the arrests made. “Public opinion is always going to be there, we can’t let that influence the decision. We can’t make a snap decision. I understand public opinion, I understand the sympathy,” Durden said. “We have made the decision based on what we believe is the applicable law and our interpretation of the evidence that has been covered here.”
Durden had previously said that he would put the case before a grand jury to determine criminal charges, something that couldn’t happen until June due to COVID-19 restrictions, which closed the courts. When asked if he brought GBI in to expedite the process he replied, “No, those are two separate things. June 12 is a directive from the Georgia Supreme Court. The other thing has to do with evidence and some matters that I requested that GBI run down.”
Reynolds told reporters: “This case, when it’s handed over to Mr. Durden for ultimate prosecution will be complete. It will be done and every stone will be turned over, I promise.”
It should be noted that today, Friday would have been Arbery’s 26th birthday. The NAACP held a protest to mark his birthday and activists plan to run 2.23 miles on Friday to honor Arbery, according to CBS News. The miles are meant to signify the date he was killed.