The killing of an unarmed black man at the hands of armed white men here has sparked outrage and drawn fresh attention to the state’s stand-your-ground law.
Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was running down a street in the city’s Satilla Shores neighborhood early in the afternoon of Feb. 23 when he caught the attention of Gregory McMichael. A former cop and investigator with the local district attorney’s office, McMichael was sitting in his son Travis’ front yard.
“Travis, the guy is running down the street, let’s go,” Gregory told his son, according to a police report obtained by The New York Times.
The men, who are white, said they suspected Arbery, who is black, might be connected to recent thefts in their neighborhood. They grabbed weapons—a shotgun and a .357 magnum—and followed Arbery in Travis McMichael’s pickup truck, which bears the Gadsden flag and its “Don’t tread on me” motto. A neighbor, William Bryan, joined the McMichaels in pursuing Arbery, according to police.
Soon after, the trio confronted Arbery. According to Gregory McMichael’s account in the police report, Arbery turned toward Travis McMichael’s truck as he stopped and exited, and struck Travis. A video that circulated widely on Tuesday—and that Arbery’s aunt, Thea Brooks, said depicted her nephew—shows a black man and white man struggling both on and off-screen as shots ring out. But the video’s provenance, and whether it was the same footage shot by Bryan that was cited by a local prosecutor—who initially declined to press charges in connection with the shooting—was unclear.
“Travis fired a shot and then a second later there was a second shot,” the police report states. At least two shots struck Arbery, the Glynn County Coroner’s Office told The Daily Beast last week.
Arbery died in the middle of the street where he fell, and no one has been arrested or charged with a crime. But on Tuesday, District Attorney Tom Durden—the third prosecutor to tackle the killing—announced that he would present the case to a grand jury.
Meanwhile, Arbery’s family was moving to hold a protest in the area Tuesday evening.
“It’s murder. It’s heartbreaking to even look at. The whole city has seen it,” Brooks, Arbery’s aunt, told The Daily Beast of the clip circulating. “Right now we just have to stay calm because it’s a graphic video, it was very painful to watch, and we know what we knew the other day: one man was murdered, and two men are out.”
At his son’s home on Friday, Gregory McMichael told The Daily Beast he “never would have gone after someone for their color,” and that the “closest version of the truth” exists in a letter effectively exonerating him and his son that was written by a prosecutor who recused himself from the case, George Barnhill.
Repeated attempts to reach Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William Bryan by phone after the video surfaced on Tuesday were unsuccessful.
The video circulating appears to have been taken by the third man, William Bryan. He is in his vehicle driving around a curve and on the right side of the road we see Ahmaud running as Bryan is coming up behind him. Ahmaud sees a white truck parked on the right shoulder and runs around to the right on the grass to avoid it as the vehicle with Bryan slows down to approach the same truck.
The vehicle pulls up behind the truck and we hear a gunshot. Two white men come out from the right side of the truck, Ahmaud is in a struggle with an older white man, who is holding a long rifle. Ahmaud grabs the barrel of the rifle in an effort to defend himself. A second shot rings out and Ahmaud takes a few steps and staggers to the pavement.
They were lying in wait for Ahmaud.
This was a lynching, straight up, in 2020 America.
Ahmaud Arbery died in the middle of the street.
They took a video of the act.
The NY Times's 1619 Project on the 400-year history of slavery in America won a Pulitzer Prize this week for commentary for Nikole Hannah-Jones. The right, in particular Federalist editor Ben Shapiro, have ruthlessly been attacking the 1619 Project as "divisive" and "hateful" towards America itself, as "revisionist history". Shapiro in particular was livid over the award, promising a "large part" of his upcoming book would be dedicated to debunk the "notion" that slavery was the driving force of American history.
I mention this because Shapiro's chief argument is that slavery and racism have been "solved" by white America, and that black America, in particular black folk of my generation and younger, have lived in a country where civil rights have been guaranteed by law all our lives, and that racism is an ugly relic of the past used to blame white America for the problems that black America now needs to "solve" themselves.
And to Shapiro, I say Ahmaud Arbery was ambushed and murdered in the middle of the street like an animal.
A black man was lynched in 2020 Georgia.
Very little has changed from 400 years ago.