Ahmaud Arbery: Murder charges laid after case of slain Black man sparks outrage in U.S.

Click to play video: '2 men arrested, charged with felony murder in shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery: police'
2 men arrested, charged with felony murder in shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery: police
WATCH: 2 men arrested, charged with felony murder in shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, police say – May 8, 2020

WARNING: This story contains video and details that some readers may find disturbing. Please read at your own discretion.

Two men have been arrested and charged with murder more than two months after the shooting death of a Black man in Georgia that sparked outrage over racial injustice.

Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34, are also facing charges of aggravated assault in connection to the armed pursuit and shooting of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) announced Thursday. The pair were taken into custody the same day.

Neither man was arrested or charged in the wake of the Feb. 23 shooting, to which they have both admitted. The father and son, who are both white, told police they thought Arbery was a suspected burglar who had targeted homes in their neighbourhood just outside Brunswick, Ga.

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Arbery’s family say the former football player was simply out for a daytime jog, which he did every day.

READ MORE: ‘Justice for Ahmaud’: Outcry erupts over video of Black jogger’s killing

Benjamin Crump, an attorney for the slain man’s father, Marcus Arbery, said it was “outrageous” that it took so long for arrests to be made.

“This is the first step to justice,” Crump said in a statement. “It’s a travesty of justice that they enjoyed their freedom for 74 days after taking the life of a young black man who was simply jogging.”

Cellphone video of what Arbery’s family has said shows the shooting began circulating on social media on Tuesday, leading to growing calls for justice from the family, activist groups and prominent politicians and celebrities across the U.S.

Click to play video: 'Graphic video surfaces showing fatal shooting of African-American man, family says he was out jogging'
Graphic video surfaces showing fatal shooting of African-American man, family says he was out jogging

The video, which was originally shared by a local radio station, shows a Black man jogging on the left side of a road. A truck is parked in the road ahead of him. One man is inside the pickup’s bed, and another is standing beside the open driver’s side door.

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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.

READ MORE: U.S. family calls shooting death of Black man a ‘modern lynching,’ demands arrests

The GBI said in its statement Thursday that Travis McMichael fired the shot that killed Arbery. It said the Glynn County Police Department asked them on Tuesday to investigate the release of the cellphone video “related to Arbery’s death.”

Gregory McMichael, Travis’ father, told police that he and his adult son thought Arbery matched the description of someone caught on a security camera committing a recent break-in in the neighborhood. They armed themselves with guns before getting in a truck to pursue him.

The father said his son got out of the truck holding a shotgun, and Arbery “began to violently attack.” After Arbery was shot, the police report says, Gregory McMichael turned him onto his back to see if he was armed.

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The report doesn’t say whether he had a weapon.

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“These men were vigilantes, they were a posse and they performed a modern lynching in the middle of the day,” Lee Merritt, an attorney for Arbery’s mother, said on Wednesday.

Yet District Attorney Tom Durden had recommended the case go before a grand jury to determine whether charges be laid, which the family had said could take at least a month.

The GBI said the case against the McMichaels is being investigated in partnership with Durden.

Durden was the third prosecutor to take on the case after Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson recused herself last month. Gregory McMichael served as an investigator for Johnson until he retired last year. George Barnhill, the first outside prosecutor on the case, also stepped away in mid-April. His son works as an assistant prosecutor for Johnson.

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READ MORE: Fatal U.S. shooting thought to be racially motivated should go to grand jury: prosecutor

Georgia law says a person can kill in self-defence “only if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury … or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.” The law also says a person who provokes an attack or acts as “the aggressor” can’t claim self-defence.

Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who has been criticized along with other top state officials for the delay in arrests and charges, threw his support behind the GBI’s investigation Tuesday. He applauded Thursday’s arrests on Twitter, promising “justice will be served.”

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Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr also expressed gratitude for the GBI’s “quick and decisive action.”

“This tragedy cannot be undone, but this is the first step in what I am confident will be a swift road to justice,” he said in a statement.

The rising cries of “Justice for Ahmaud” reached celebrities, politicians and athletes across the U.S. after the video was released. Everyone from former Vice President and Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden to NBA All-Star LeBron James threw their support behind the growing calls for the McMichaels’ arrests.

The outcry over the killing reached the White House, where President Donald Trump offered condolences Thursday to Arbery’s family.

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“It’s a very sad thing,” Trump said in the Oval Office, “but I will be given a full report this evening.”

Click to play video: '‘No Justice, No Peace’: Ahmaud Arbery protest held in Georgia'
‘No Justice, No Peace’: Ahmaud Arbery protest held in Georgia

Those close to Arbery celebrated the news of the arrests and charges, but also expressed frustration at the long wait.

“This should have occurred the day it happened,” said Akeem Baker, one of Arbery’s close friends in Brunswick. “There’s no way without the video this would have occurred. I’m just glad the light’s shining very bright on this situation.”

-With files from the Associated Press

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