Investigators Say One Man Shot Ahmaud Arbery. Why Are Three Charged With Murder?

24 mai 2020 0 Par ADMIN

ATLANTA — Three shots were fired in the confrontation that killed Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who was chased by white men as he ran through their southeastern Georgia neighborhood. The authorities said Travis McMichael, who with his father and a neighbor pursued Mr. Arbery, pulled the trigger.

Here are the key facts of the case, and why the authorities said all three men were charged with killing Mr. Arbery.

Gregory McMichael, a former police officer and investigator for the local district attorney, had joined in the pursuit, the authorities said. According to a police report, Mr. McMichael said he saw Mr. Arbery running through his neighborhood and thought he looked like the suspect in a rash of nearby break-ins.

In Mr. Bryan’s case, the authorities said, he had tried to help detain Mr. Arbery, which contributed to his death.

“Felony murder is a crime in Georgia where you’re committing a felony crime and that crime ends up in the death of another human being,” Vic Reynolds, the G.B.I. director and a former district attorney, explained at a news conference on Friday.

“As the warrant indicated, he’s charged with an underlying felony and he’s also charged with felony murder,” Mr. Reynolds added. “So, we believe the evidence would indicate his underlying felony helped cause the death of Ahmaud Arbery.”

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Ahmaud Arbery’s Final Minutes: What Videos and 911 Calls Show

Using security footage, cellphone video, 911 calls and police reports, The Times has reconstructed the 12 minutes before Ahmaud Arbery was shot dead in Georgia on Feb. 23.

In February, 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery was shot dead in the south Georgia neighborhood of Satilla Shores. In the two months that followed, no arrests were made. But local residents and lawmakers protested what they said was a deadly combination of racial profiling and flawed self-defense laws. “When they stop you, make sure you got your cameras on. Make sure you got a video.” Police did eventually arrest 2 suspects, but it was days after this video of the fatal shooting emerged. Gregory McMichael and his son Travis were charged with murder and aggravated assault. The case has reignited the national debate over racial violence. “I’m sure you saw the news about Ahmaud Arbery.” “It looks like murder.” “The American public saw the video.” What exactly happened in the last moments of Mr. Arbery’s life? Using security camera footage, cellphone video, and 911 calls and logs, The Times has reconstructed the critical 12 minutes from when Mr. Arbery appeared on Satilla Drive to his death, less than 300 yards away. It’s around 1 p.m. on Feb. 23 when Ahmaud Arbery is out, less than 2 miles from his home. A security camera at 219 Satilla Drive is recording when Mr. Arbery enters the frame at around 1:04 p.m. He may have been jogging in the area, but he stops on the front lawn of 220 Satilla, a house being built across the street. Arbery glances around and wanders into the open construction site. Inside, security footage briefly captures him looking around. Meanwhile outside, a neighbor walks from Jones Road towards Satilla Drive and calls 911. The neighbor waits by the street corner. He will later tell the dispatcher that Arbery resembles a recent trespasser in the area. On multiple occasions before Feb. 23, several trespassers were caught on camera at 220 Satilla. The owner routinely alerted the police. On four occasions, what appears to be the same man was filmed. It’s unclear if this was Arbery, but even if it were, this does not justify his shooting by neighbors outside on the street. The site’s owner says nothing was ever stolen from the house during these incidents or on Feb. 23, and no property was ever damaged. But neighbors were aware of the trespasses and the community was on alert. Now, back to the day in question. It’s 1:08 p.m. and Arbery is walking around inside the house. Four minutes after he entered, he walks out and runs off. In the top corner of the security footage, we can see down the street to 230 Satilla, the home of Travis McMichael. At 1:10 p.m., Travis and his father, Gregory, grab their guns, jump in a white truck, and leave the house to pursue Mr. Arbery. We don’t have footage showing the next 3 minutes, but testimony Gregory McMichael gave police at the scene, and interviews by another witness, Roddy Bryan, indicate what happened. Gregory and Travis McMichael follow Arbery onto Burford Road. Their neighbor Roddy Bryan sees the pursuit, gets in his car and follows. The McMichaels try to cut Arbery off. Arbery doubles back and passes them. Bryan tries to block Arbery, but Arbery runs past him and toward Holmes Road. Gregory McMichael climbs from the cab to the bed of the truck armed with a handgun. We don’t know exactly what happens next. But Bryan and the McMichaels end up following Arbery on Holmes Road. And we next see Arbery at 1:14 p.m. running back down Holmes Road away from Roddy Bryan and toward the McMichaels. Roddy Bryan is filming and — a warning — these scenes are distressing. Gregory McMichael dials 911 at this time. Let’s watch this back and break down what happens. This is Arbery. He has been running from the vehicles for almost 4 minutes. Travis is standing by the driver’s side of the truck, armed with a shotgun. Gregory is in the bed of the truck on the 911 call. Arbery doesn’t know where to run. He veers right, then left and then darts around the right side of the vehicle. Arbery comes around the front of the truck. We see his white T-shirt through the windshield and here is Travis now leaning toward him. This is the instant the first shot is fired. Arbery is hit in the chest, his right lung, ribs, and sternum are injured. The two men wrestle over the gun. Gregory shouts: “Travis!” Arbery punches Travis. In the back of the truck, Gregory drops the cellphone. A second blast goes off out of frame. But we see the shotgun smoke here. Arbery is heavily bleeding. He throws another punch. Travis fires a final shot, which hits Arbery in his left upper chest. Travis walks away holding his gun. Gregory gets off the truck clutching his .357 Magnum. According to the police report, Gregory rolled Arbery over to see if he had a weapon. He did not. Police officers arrive within seconds of the shooting, and a minute or so later at 1:16 p.m., Police Officer R. Minshew reports: Two subjects on Holmes Road. Shots fired. Male on ground bleeding out. The police took Gregory McMichael’s testimony and let the two men go. But now the McMichaels both face serious charges. Hi, this is Malachy and I reported this story. For transparency, a note about the security footage used in this video, which was first published by The Atlanta Journal Constitution. The time code you see here is incorrect. We know this because we lined up what we see in this video with what we hear in two 911 calls and we confirmed the time of those calls. These details and police logs also allowed us to determine that Gregory McMichael called 911 from his son’s phone just before the fatal shooting. So in this video, we used the real time that events happened. Thank you for watching.

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Using security footage, cellphone video, 911 calls and police reports, The Times has reconstructed the 12 minutes before Ahmaud Arbery was shot dead in Georgia on Feb. 23.

S. Lee Merritt, a lawyer for Mr. Arbery’s family, recently said he believed that because Mr. Bryan had participated in the chase and “corralled” Mr. Arbery, he should be arrested along with the McMichaels, who were charged May 7 with murder and aggravated assault.

“We know it’s not only the man who pulled the trigger,” Mr. Merritt said.

There have been cases where people have been sentenced to death for having a contributing role in a murder case.

A recent example was the execution of Nathaniel Woods, who had been convicted in Alabama in connection with the fatal shooting of three police officers in Birmingham. Another man fired at the officers in what prosecutors described as an ambush. Still, prosecutors argued that Mr. Woods had helped orchestrate the attack, making him just as guilty as the gunman.

Mr. Woods was put to death on March 5 against the backdrop of considerable criticism, as his supporters argued that the handling of his case had been rife with flaws. The gunman remains on death row.

Kevin Gough, Mr. Bryan’s lawyer, said his research had indicated that “there is no precedent” in Georgia law for the prosecution of Mr. Bryan.

“This is a groundbreaking prosecution — a substantial extension of the existing law,” Mr. Gough said in a statement on Friday. “These charges, if sustained, constitute a substantial expansion of criminal liability in Georgia that many — in the fullness of time — will likely find troubling.”

Lawyers for the McMichaels said their clients maintain their innocence.

“So often the public accepts a narrative driven by an incomplete set of facts, one that vilifies a good person, based on a rush to judgment, which has happened in this case,” Laura Hogue, one of Gregory McMichael’s lawyers, said in a recent statement.

“While the death of Ahmaud Arbery is a tragedy, causing deep grief to his family — a tragedy that at first appears to many to fit into a terrible pattern in American life — this case does not fit that pattern,” his other lawyer, Frank Hogue, added. “The full story, to be revealed in time, will tell the truth about this case.”

Mr. Arbery was a former high school football standout who was living with his mother outside the small city of Brunswick. He was shot dead in a suburban neighborhood called Satilla Shores. Friends and family said he liked to stay in good shape, and he was often seen jogging in and around his neighborhood.

On Sunday, Feb. 23, shortly after 1 p.m., he was killed in a neighborhood a short jog away from his home after being confronted by the McMichaels.

Mr. Arbery was running when Gregory McMichael, standing in his front yard, saw him go by, according to a police report. Mr. McMichael told the authorities he thought Mr. Arbery may have been involved in several area break-ins and called to his son, Travis McMichael.

According to the police report, the men grabbed a .357 Magnum handgun and a shotgun, got into a pickup truck and chased Mr. Arbery, trying unsuccessfully to cut him off. According to the police report and other documents, Mr. Bryan was also involved in the pursuit.

Police report detailing the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery

In a recording of a 911 call, which appears to have been made moments before the chase began, a neighbor told a dispatcher that a black man was inside a house that was under construction on the McMichaels’ block.

During the chase, the McMichaels yelled, “Stop, stop, we want to talk to you,” according to Gregory McMichael’s account in the police report. They then pulled up in front of Mr. Arbery, and Travis McMichael got out of the truck with the shotgun.

Gregory McMichael said “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 report states.

The police report and other documents obtained by The New York Times do not indicate that Mr. Arbery was armed.

ImageGregory McMichael, left, and his son, Travis McMichael.
Credit…Glynn County (Ga.) Detention Center, via Associated Press

Shortly after the shooting, the prosecutor for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, Jackie Johnson, recused herself because Gregory McMichael had worked in her office.

The case was sent to George E. Barnhill, the district attorney in Waycross, Ga., who later recused himself from the case after Mr. Arbery’s mother argued that he had a conflict because his son also works for the Brunswick district attorney.

But before he relinquished the case, Mr. Barnhill wrote a letter to the Glynn County Police Department. In the letter, which was obtained by The Times, he argued that there was not sufficient probable cause to arrest Mr. Arbery’s pursuers.

Mr. Barnhill noted that the McMichaels were legally carrying their firearms under Georgia’s open carry law. He said the pursuers had been within their rights to pursue what he called “a burglary suspect” and cited a state law that says, “A private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge.”

Mr. Barnhill also argued that if Mr. Arbery attacked Travis McMichael, Mr. McMichael was “allowed to use deadly force to protect himself” under Georgia law.

Anger over the killing and the lack of consequences for the McMichaels grew when a graphic video surfaced, showing the shooting on a suburban road.

George Barnhill’s letter to Glynn County Police Department

The video is about a half-minute long and shows Mr. Arbery running along a shaded two-lane residential road when he comes upon a white truck, with a man said to be Travis McMichael standing beside its open driver’s side door with a shotgun. His father is in the bed of the pickup with a handgun.

Mr. Arbery runs around the truck and disappears briefly from view. Muffled shouting can be heard before Mr. Arbery emerges, fighting with Travis McMichael outside the truck as three shotgun blasts echo.

Mr. Arbery tries to run but staggers and falls to the pavement after a few steps.


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