Video has emerged that allegedly depicts an incident involving the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in Georgia. A district attorney has announced simultaneously that the case will appear before a grand jury.
The incident involved 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, who was jogging down a neighborhood street on February 23 in the town of Brunswick. He was shot and killed while struggling for a shotgun held by 34-year-old Travis McMichael.
Travis and his father, Gregory, 64, were allegedly following Arbery because they suspected that the 25-year-old was involved in a string of robberies in the neighborhood.
“Travis, the guy is running down the street, let’s go,” Gregory McMichael said, according to a police report.
Travis grabbed a shotgun while Gregory grabbed a handgun, and they soon caught up to Arbery.
“Stop, stop, we want to talk to you,” Gregory McMichael shouted at Arbery, according to the police report.
It isn’t clear from the video how much interaction had already occurred between the three men before the footage begins.
Arbery can be seen running in a white t-shirt while the McMichaels wait for him farther down the road. The police report indicates that prior to this point, the McMichaels had already tried to cut Arbery off, and he had turned around and run in the opposite direction, according to CNN.
In the video, Travis McMichael can be seen standing beside the driver’s side of the truck while his father stands in the bed of the truck. Arbery runs around the right side of the truck and comes around the front towards Travis McMichael.
The two appear to struggle for the shotgun, and a shot can be heard right before Arbery begins striking Travis McMichael. A second shot is fired off camera, and when the two appear back on the screen, Arbery strikes McMichael several more times while a third shot is fired.
Arbery sustained three wounds and died shortly thereafter.
The first two prosecutors on this case recused themselves over possible conflicts of interest. Gregory McMichael is a former police officer as well as a former investigator for the district attorney in the Brunswick Judicial Circuit.
One of those prosecutors, George E. Barnhill, refused to prosecute the two men because Arbery’s attempt to grab Travis McMichael’s gun justifies deadly force under Georgia law, according to the New York Times.
Barnhill also contended that the father and son acted within the scope of Georgia’s citizen’s arrest statute.
Barnhill pointed to a 911 call that took place moments before the chase began in which a neighbor told a dispatcher that a black man in a white T-shirt was inside a house that was under construction and only partially closed in.
“And he’s running right now,” the man told the dispatcher. “There he goes right now!”
S. Lee Merritt, an attorney for the Arbery family, disagrees with Barnhill’s assessment. At best, the men had the authority to follow Arbery and send law enforcement to that location, Merritt told CNN.
“According to that law, you actually have to be observing the crime or be in the immediate knowledge of the crime,” Merritt said. “The only thing they have ever said is … that Ahmaud stopped by a house that was under construction and he looked through the window. We don’t know if that happened or not, but even if that did happen that is not a felony that would invoke the citizen’s arrest statute that would make this allowable.”
The new district attorney, Tom Durden, believes the case deserves to be heard before a grand jury, which will determine whether to indict either of the McMichaels for their actions. Durden wrote in a news release that he expects to present the case to the next available grand jury in Glynn County.