One year to the day that 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery was gunned down by Travis McMichael and his father Greg McMichael while jogging through a neighborhood in Glynn County, Ga., Arbery’s mother has filed a civil lawsuit in federal court seeking $1 million in damages for his death.
Wanda Cooper-Jones filed the suit at a U.S. District Court in Georgia on Tuesday, according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. The complaint names the McMichaels as defendants, along with William Bryan, the man who captured the father and son on video chasing Arbery down last February, physically attacking him, and then the younger McMichael shooting Arbery three times. All three men are facing felony murder charges in the harrowing case, which helped drive national protests against racist violence last year.
“When I laid Ahmaud to rest last February, a part of me left also,” Cooper-Jones recently told Blayne Alexander of NBC News.
The civil suit brought by Arbery’s mother also notably names members of the Glynn County Police Department, along with Jackie Johnson and George Barnhill—former prosecutors in the case—as defendants, accusing them of conspiring “to hide the circumstances surrounding Ahmaud’s death and to protect the men who murdered him.”
The suit also alleges that the three men who apprehended Arbery were “deputized” by the Glynn County Police. The elder McMichael was a former investigator with the force.
The cover-up continued after police decided not to arrest the McMichaels or Bryan, according to the complaint. Greg McMichael’s former boss, Jackie Johnson, intervened immediately. The suit claims her office advised police that charges were not necessary, adding that Ware County District Attorney George Barnhill was taking the case over.
Johnson had a long history with the elder McMichael.
“When Defendant Gregory McMichael was stripped of arrest powers due to his failure to complete basic training to maintain his certification as an officer, Defendant Johnson intervened on his behalf to get him an ‘exemption’ from state-mandated training,” the suit alleges.
Johnson, the complaint continues, led McMichael “to believe that he could act with impunity when engaging in law enforcement conduct.”
The longtime Brunswick DA, who lost her re-election bid last Fall, handpicked Barnhill despite the fact his son was employed by Johnson and had worked alongside Greg McMichael.
On Feb. 24, the day after Arbery’s death, Barnhill, whose appointment was not yet official, told Glynn detectives he had concluded that “the act was justifiable homicide,” according to the suit.
The suit accuses Barnhill of committing libel by falsely saying that Arbery had committed burglary. Glynn County Police Chief John Powell and Officer Robert Rash are also named in the suit, which alleges that the police were not properly trained or supervised, along with other claims. The complaint includes a diagram that it says shows Arbery was “stalked, tracked and shot” by the McMichaels and Bryan—the latter of whom it alleges blocked Arbery in with his vehicle and hit him during the deadly chase on Feb. 23. The men were arrested in May, months after the attack on Arbery, and indicted by a grand jury last June.
“It’s important for the world to know that on that date, that even as we hold the criminals accountable, there’s other people that should be held civilly liable, and that there should be additional consequences,” S. Lee Merritt, the attorney representing the Arbery family told First Coast News of the lawsuit. “What these men did, it should have been condemned immediately.”
The three men criminally charged in Arbery’s death remain in jail without bond, pending a trial that has yet to be scheduled.