A grand jury in the US state of Georgia has indicted three white men on nine separate counts, including felony murder, in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.
“This is another positive step, another great step for finding justice for Ahmaud, for finding justice for this family and the community beyond,” District Attorney Joyette Holmes said following the jury’s announcement.
The accused – Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and their neighbour William Bryan – were arrested last month in connection to Arbery’s death, following a cell phone video of the shooting being leaked online.
The video had been taken by Mr Bryan who was giving chase to Arbery alongside the McMichaels, and shows Travis McMichael shooting Arbery with his shotgun following a struggle between the two men. Arbery was unarmed. Earlier this month, it was alleged by a state investigator that Travis McMichael was heard saying a racial slur as he stood over Arbery, moments after shooting him dead.
Gregory McMichael has claimed he suspected Arbery of burglary and had attacked his son Travis before being shot.
The incident took place on Feb. 23, 2020 in Brunswick’s Satilla Shores, a predominantly white neighbourhood, where Arbery was jogging. After spotting Arbery on their CCTV, the McMichaels armed themselves with a pistol and shotgun pursued him in their pickup truck.
A testimony from a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent explained how Arbery ended up in a fight with Travis McMichael.
“I believe Mr. Arbery was being pursued, and he ran ‘till he couldn’t run anymore, and it was turn his back to a man with a shotgun or fight with his bare hands against the man with the shotgun. He chose to fight,” Special Agent in Charge Richard Dial said.
William Bryan had followed the McMichaels in his own vehicle soon after. An arrest warrant for Bryan stated that he “utilized his vehicle on multiple occasions” in an illegal attempt to “confine and detain” Arbery in the lead up to his death.
Mr Bryan’s lawyer, Kevin Gough, has repeatedly stated that his client was merely a witness. “We’re disappointed that the district attorney chose to indict Mr. Bryan,” he said. “But at the same time we’ve been demanding a speedy trial from day one. The presentation of this case to the grand jury brings us one step closer to our day in court.”
Ahmaud Arbery’s death and trial has reached global attention and is one of the most recent racially-motivated murder cases to fuel anti-racism protests in the US and abroad.
Reacting to the jury’s indictment, Mr Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, told NBC Nightly News: “At this point I do believe the case is moving in the right direction.
“This just empowers us to fight. This is just the first steps of it – we still have a long way to go.”