Georgia grand jury to consider charges as video of fatal shooting of black man released
Because of COVID-19, grand jury won't meet until at least June to look into death of Ahmaud Arbery
The parents of a black man slain in a pursuit by two white men armed with guns called for immediate arrests Wednesday as they faced the prospect of waiting a month or longer before a Georgia grand jury could consider bringing charges.
A swelling outcry over the Feb. 23 shooting of Ahmaud Arbery intensified after a cellphone video that purports to show the killing surfaced online Tuesday. Following the video's release, a large crowd of demonstrators marched in the neighbourhood where Arbery was killed, and the state opened its own investigation, which the governor and attorney general pledged to support.
The men who pursued Arbery told police they suspected he had committed a recent burglary.
Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, told reporters Wednesday she believes her 25-year-old son "was just out for his daily jog" in a neighborhood outside the port city of Brunswick. She hasn't watched the video.
"I saw my son come into the world," Jones said. "And seeing him leave the world, it's not something that I'll want to see ever."
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Marcus Arbery, Ahmaud's father, said the video is very clear: "They were on the truck with guns hunting him down.
"I don't know what more you need to make an arrest."
A Georgia prosecutor said Tuesday he wants a grand jury to decide if criminal charges are warranted in the death of Arbery, 25.
Attorneys for Arbery's family said the father and son who grabbed guns and pursued Arbery in a truck after seeing him running in their neighborhood should be arrested now before a grand jury decides whether to indict them — as often happens in criminal cases.
"These men were vigilantes, they were a posse and they performed a modern lynching in the middle of the day," said Lee Merritt, an attorney for Arbery's mother.
Merritt also said the U.S. Justice Department should investigate Arbery's death as a hate crime.
Tom Durden, an outside prosecutor assigned to examine the case, said he plans to have a grand jury hear the evidence. That won't happen for more than a month, as Georgia courts remain partially closed because of the coronavirus until at least June 13.
"I am of the opinion that the case should be presented to the grand jury of Glynn County for consideration of criminal charges against those involved in the death of Mr. Arbery," Durden said in a statement Tuesday.
Struggle, followed by gunshots
Reached by phone, Durden said no arrests have been made in connection with the shooting. He declined to say what charges he would have a grand jury consider.
The cellphone video, initially posted by a Brunswick radio station, shows a black man running at a jogging pace on the left side of a two-lane road. A truck is parked in the road ahead of him, with one man in the pickup bed and another standing beside the open driver-side door.
UPDATE: This evening DA Tom Durden formally requested the GBI to investigate the death of Ahmaud Arbery. <a href="https://t.co/e9grV2bk0Y">https://t.co/e9grV2bk0Y</a>—@GBI_GA
The runner crosses the road to pass the pickup on the passenger side, then crosses back in front of the truck. A gunshot sounds, and the video shows the runner grappling with a man in the street over what appears to be a shotgun or rifle. A second shot can be heard and the runner can be seen punching the man. A third shot is fired at point-blank range. The runner staggers a few feet and falls face-down.
Durden declined to comment Tuesday when the prosecutor was asked if he could verify that the video showed the shooting of Arbery.
Biden calls for probe
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden commented on the video on Tuesday, calling for a "full and transparent investigation."
"The video is clear: Ahmaud Arbery was killed in cold blood," said Biden. "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."
The video is clear: Ahmaud Arbery was killed in cold blood. 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. <a href="https://t.co/alvY5WjdHx">https://t.co/alvY5WjdHx</a>—@JoeBiden
According to an incident report filed by Glynn County police, Arbery was shot Feb. 23, after two men spotted him running in their neighbourhood and armed themselves with guns before getting in a truck to pursue him. Gregory McMichael told police that he and his adult son, Travis, thought the young man matched someone caught on a security camera committing a recent break-in in the neighbourhood.
According to his father, Arbery didn't live far from the Satilla Shores neighbourhood where the McMichaels gave chase after spotting him that afternoon.
The police report says Gregory McMichael told officers he and his son first tried to stop Arbery by shouting, "Stop, stop, we want to talk to you!"
WATCH: 'Run for Maud' protest takes place:
McMichael said his son got out of the truck and then Arbery "began to violently attack" him and "the two men then started fighting over the shotgun," the police report says.
It says Gregory McMichael turned Arbery onto his back to see if he was armed — but the report doesn't say whether he had a weapon or not.
A phone number listed for Gregory McMichael has been disconnected. The Associated Press could not immediately find a phone listing for Travis McMichael.
Jackie Johnson, the district attorney for Glynn County, recused herself from the case because Gregory McMichael worked as an investigator in her office. He retired a year ago.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said in a tweet on Tuesday they have been asked to investigate in the case, and are also looking into threats the Glynn County police have received as well as the "public release of the video."
Republican Gov. Brian Kemp late Tuesday threw his support behind that probe. He posted on Twitter: "Georgians deserve answers. State law enforcement stands ready to ensure justice is served."
With files from CBC News