Lawyers for the family of a black jogger in Georgia, who was chased and gunned down by white men who said they believed he was a burglar, are calling for authorities to make arrests.
The attorneys also released a video that apparently shows the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery and an altercation in the moments prior.
Arbery, 25, was shot to death in Brunswick, a coastal city about midway between Savannah and Jacksonville, Florida, on Feb. 23, as he was running through the Satilla Shores neighborhood.
Police have identified the two men who chased him as Brunswick resident Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son, Travis McMichael, 34. Neither has been arrested or charged, and the investigation is ongoing.
A prosecutor vowed Tuesday to bring the case to a grand jury.
But lawyers for the Arbery family said authorities don’t need to wait for a grand jury to make arrests.
“There are a number of agencies that can go out and make these arrests today. That is our demand. The men who murdered Ahmaud should be prosecuted,” said attorney Lee Merritt.
Merritt called on District Attorney Thomas Durden, based in Hinesville, to issue an arrest warrant and indict Gregory and Travis McMichael.
“We respect that there is a legal process that must be followed in order for formal indictments to take place, but for the safety of this community; for the respect of Ahmaud Arbery’s memory we demand that … these men be arrested,” Merritt told reporters Wednesday.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced Wednesday that it joined the probe at Durden’s request.
“I advised him that we we would hit the ground running this morning. We’ve now assigned this case to three of our experienced, supervisory-level agents,” GBI Director Vic Reynolds said.
“I’m confident we’ll do justice in this matter.”
Back on Feb. 23, Gregory McMichael first spotted Arbery on foot “hauling ass” down Satilla Drive and immediately thought he was a burglar who had recently been targeting the neighborhood, according to a Glynn County police report.
Gregory McMichael armed himself with a .357 Magnum while his son grabbed a shotgun. They both jumped into their pickup truck and chased Arbery. Police said a third man, identified as a neighbor, joined the chase and jumped into the McMichael’s truck.
The older McMichael told police that he shouted at Arbery to stop. When they caught up to him, there was a confrontation.
“McMichael stated (that) the unidentified male began to violently attack Travis and the two men then started fighting over the shotgun at which point Travis fired a shot and then a second later there was a second shot,” the police report states.
The report didn’t specifically say if Arbery was armed, but Merritt has said the victim did not have a weapon.
In the video of the shooting released by Merritt on Tuesday, Arbery is seen jogging down a road as a white pickup truck is stopped in front of him. Arbery runs around the vehicle and a shot is fired. The video then shows Arbery and another man appearing to tussle as two more shots are fired.
NBC News does not know what occurred before the events shown in the video.
Merritt said that the video was posted online anonymously and that he received it from someone who knew the victim. The attorney said he believes the shooter’s intention was to kill Arbery “without any proper justification,” and he called the young man’s death a “modern-day lynching.”
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is also representing the family, said he thinks that if two black people had killed a white person, arrests would have already been made.
“It is unacceptable that this district attorney is continuing to try and kick the can down the road,” he told reporters.
On Tuesday, Durden said he thinks the case should be presented to a grand jury for consideration of criminal charges against those involved in Arbery’s death. It’s unclear when this could happen since Georgia courts are prohibited from empaneling any grand or trial jury through at least June 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Crump said that given the state the country is in because of the virus, obtaining an indictment poses a challenge, but he does not want justice for Arbery and his family to “be swept under the rug.”
Both Crump and Merritt took issue with how the case has been handled so far.
Wanda Cooper, the victim’s mother, said Wednesday that when she first learned of her son’s death, a Glynn County detective had told her that Arbery had been involved in a burglary and was confronted by a homeowner who shot him.
Cooper said it wasn’t until days later that she learned Arbery had been gunned down in the middle of the road while jogging.
“They were profiling him, saying he’s a burglar,” Crump said. “The only thing they knew was that he was a young black man.”
Merritt said he lacks trust in having Durden prosecuting the case and wants a special prosecutor assigned after there is an indictment.
Durden is the third district attorney to have the case after two other prosecutors’ offices recused themselves because of potential conflicts of interest. Gregory McMichael is a retired investigator for the local prosecutor in Brunswick.
Arbery, a high school athlete who his family said was always engaged in physical exercise, would have celebrated his 26th birthday on Friday.
“His spirit was good. … Ahmaud didn’t deserve to go out the way he went out,” Cooper said.
“He was a very bright young man,” his father, Marcus Arbery, added. “It just hurts me so deeply that his life has been cut off so short. He had a lot to live for.”