Illustration for article titled As Graphic Video of Black Joggers Killing Goes Viral, Georgia Prosecutor Recommends Case Go Before Grand Jury
Screenshot: Twitter

On Tuesday, a graphic video was posted online showing the deadly shooting of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black man who was killed in February by two white men as he went for a jog in a Southern Georgia suburb. As video of the killing spread far and wide online, a Georgia prosecutor recommended the case go to a grand jury to decide whether to bring criminal charges.

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In a statement shared on Facebook Tuesday morning, District Attorney Tom Durden, representing the Atlantic Judicial Circuit, said that after “careful” review of the evidence, “I am of the opinion that the case should be presented to the grand jury of Glynn County for consideration of criminal charges.”

The cellphone video, originally posted online by Georgia radio station WGIG Tuesday afternoon, appears to be taken from a person driving behind Arbery as he ran through the Satilla Shores neighborhood just outside of Brunswick, Ga., on Feb. 23.

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Arbery, wearing a white t-shirt, can be seen running down one side of a sunny two-lane road when he comes upon a white pick-up truck parked in the middle of the street. On the driver’s side door is Travis McMichael, holding a shotgun, and in the bed of the truck is his father, Greg McMichael, who was also armed with a pistol.

Arbery runs on the passenger side of the truck before coming across the vehicle’s front, just as one shot goes off. Travis McMichael and Arbery struggle over Travis’s shotgun, as Greg can be seen drawing his own pistol. As they struggle over the gun, Travis and Arbery momentarily veer off-camera; the shotgun fires off again before they come back on camera. Arbery continues trying to fight Travis off before a third shot is fired, after which Arbery draws back and tries to run off.

He stumbles and collapses in the middle of the street, bleeding out in broad daylight. Police say he died on the scene.

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WGIG says the cell phone footage was given to them by an anonymous source.

“We debated whether to put it out,” the station wrote on its site, “but determined it was in the best interest of the public.”

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“This is murder,” Arbery family attorney Lee Merritt said. “The series of events captured in this video confirm what all the evidence indicated prior to its release.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, was among thousands who responded to the video Tuesday.

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“The video is clear: Ahmaud Arbery was killed in cold blood,” He tweeted. “My heart goes out to his family, who deserve justice and deserve it now. It is time for a swift, full, and transparent investigation into his murder.”

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“The video of #AhmaudArbery sickens me to my core,” tweeted California Senator Kamala Harris. “Exercising while black shouldn’t be a death sentence.”

Governor Brian Kemp also responded to the video, writing that “Georgians deserve answers.”

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Arbery’s mother, Wanda Jones, told CBS News the video “proves that my son was not committing a crime. He was out for his daily jog and he was hunted down like an animal and killed.”

Before the video was released, the case had appeared to be at a standstill for months.

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The McMichaels claim they suspected Arbery was a burglar and chased him down, attempting to perform a citizen’s arrest.

According to the police report, the McMichaels said they spotted Arbery and thought he resembled the suspect in a series of break-ins in the neighborhood, according to the BBC. They armed themselves and got into a white pick-up truck to give chase. Greg McMichael said once they caught up to Arbery, they told him to stop so they could talk to him, after which Arbery “violently” attacked his son during the confrontation, attempting to take Travis’ shotgun when Travis shot him twice.

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At some point before or during their pursuit of Arbery, Greg McMichael called 911, according to dispatcher records.

From News 4 Jacksonville:

Greg McMichael: “I’m out here at Satilla Shores and there’s a black man running down the street.”

911 dispatcher: “I just need to know what he was doing wrong, was he just on the premises and not supposed to be?”

Greg McMichael: “And he’s been caught on the camera a bunch before at night. It’s an ongoing thing out here.”

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Greg McMichael said his son was acting under the scope of citizen’s arrest and that he shot Arbery in self-defense.

As multiple outlets have reported, District Attorney Durden is the third prosecutor to handle the case. Two previous prosecutors recused themselves from the investigation because of their professional connections to Greg McMichael, who had recently retired after working as an investigator for the Brunswick District Attorney’s Office.

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The elder McMichael also worked as an officer in the Glynn County Police department for seven years.

According to documents obtained by the New York Times, one of the earlier prosecutors, George E. Barnhill, representing Waycross Judicial District, told police there was insufficient probable cause to arrest the men chasing Arbery. He argued, as Greg McMichael did, that Arbery’s pursuers “acted legally under the state’s citizen arrest and self-defense statutes,” the Times writes.

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The case has bounced from Glynn County to Ware County, finally landing with Hinesville District attorneys. Since the shooting in late February, no one has been charged with a crime in Arbery’s death.

It may still be some time before that happens. Although Durden has recommended the case go before a grand jury, because of the coronavirus, the Georgia Supreme Court has banned grand juries from convening through June 12.

Staff writer, The Root.

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