Ahmaud Arbery: Waycross District Attorney explains in letter why no one was arrested in 25-year-old’s shooting death

GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. — BREAKING UPDATE: Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael arrested, charged with murder, aggravated assault of Ahmaud Arbery

MORE | WATCH: GBI gives update on case regarding the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery

Original story below:

Local families are calling for justice in the February shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old southeast Georgia man.

Action News Jax is getting a glimpse into why the Waycross district attorney in the case decided no one needed to be arrested.

Jackie Johnson, the district attorney for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, recused her office as Gregory McMichael, one of the men involved in the shooting, was a former investigator in her office.


George Barnhill, the district attorney in Waycross, sent the letter to the Glynn County police chief sometime in April.

Barnhill recused himself from the investigation shortly after sending the letter.

In the letter, he said he believed Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, were trying to stop and hold Arbery until police officers arrived. He said, “It appears their intent was to stop and hold this criminal suspect until law enforcement arrived.”

According to the police report, Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael told police they believed Arbery was the person committing burglaries in their neighborhood, Satilla Shores. When they saw him running past their home on a Sunday afternoon, they grabbed their guns and went after him.

Barnhill said in his letter, the father, son and William Bryan, the man in the car recording the shooting, were chasing Arbery after they say he committed a crime. Moments later, there was a struggle and Arbery was shot three times.

Barnhill said the fight was over the gun. He said, “Given the fact Arbery initiated the fight, at the point Arbery grabbed the shotgun, under Georgia Law, McMichael was allowed to use deadly force to protect himself.”

At the end of the letter, Barnhill also said, "Arbery's mental health and prior convictions help explain his apparent aggressive nature and his possible thought pattern to attack an armed man."

Action News Jax has looked into Arbery’s criminal history, and it doesn’t include any violent offenses. Action News Jax contacted his attorney and he said Arbery doesn’t have a history of mental issues.

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Clark, said her son was not armed when he was killed.

A former high school athlete, Arbery was often seen jogging in his neighborhood to stay in shape, family members and neighbors said.

Action News Jax law and safety expert Dale Carson said he finds Barnhill’s letter unusual.

“The entire letter is based on the presumption that the individuals that engaged in the shooting, was engaged in a criminal act before he was chased down,” Carson said.

He said no one has provided proof of that.

Action News Jax has checked into the backgrounds of the McMichaels and Bryan and they do not appear to have a criminal history.

Action News Jax’s Amber Krycka knocked on Bryan’s door on Thursday, but got no answer. Moments later, we saw Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents at Bryan’s home in Satilla Shores.

The GBI got involved in the case two days ago at the request of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.


Brunswick Attorney Alan David Tucker came forward Thursday and said he released the video of Arbery’s final moments.

The video showed Arbery running in the street and the white pickup truck with the armed father and son in the middle of the road.

Moments later, there was a struggle and Arbery was shot three times.

Tucker said his “sole purpose in releasing the video was absolute transparency” and he also said he is not currently representing anyone involved in the case. He released the following statement:

"Throughout my 39 year career as a criminal defense lawyer, I have rarely commented on or publicly explained any action I’ve taken in my capacity as an attorney. There are times when it is warranted and necessary and this is one of those times.

"I released the video of the shooting on February 23 in Satilla Shores. There had been very little information provided by the police department or the district attorney’s office, but there was entirely too much speculation, rumor, false narratives, and outright lies surrounding this event. I didn’t release this to “show that they did nothing wrong” as is being circulated. I was raised in this community. I love this community and have spent my career helping people in this community. My sole purpose in releasing the video was absolute transparency because my community was being ripped apart by erroneous accusations and assumptions.

“My firm has not been retained to represent anyone in this case. We may be, we may not be. If we are, then I will uphold my responsibility to my client the same as I have my entire career. I will ensure my client has a fair trial in a court of law, not on social media or in the newspaper, which is guaranteed under our Constitution. I have represented people from all walks of life charged with many different things and have yet to encounter anyone who doesn’t deserve the fair representation that is guaranteed to all of us as Americans.”



During an update on COVID-19 on Thursday afternoon, Gov. Kemp called the video showing the last moments of Arbery “horrific.”

“I’ve ordered GBI director Vic Reynolds to offer assistance to the local district attorney. I did that right after seeing that horrific video. I’ve told Director Reynolds to follow the facts, to follow the truth and to administer justice without respect to person," Kemp said. “I have no doubt in my mind it will be fair and that Director Reynolds and this seasoned team of investigators will work very quickly, but will also be very thorough and they will go where ever the truth takes them.”

Earlier Thursday, on a video conference in Jacksonville with African American leaders, including Florida Rep. Al Lawson and Florida State Sen. Audrey Gibson and the local NAACP, Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden addressed the Arbery case.

“He would’ve turned 26 years old tomorrow. Tomorrow. And his family and the country deserves justice. And they deserve it now,” Biden said. “They deserve a swift, full and transparent investigation into this brutal murder, while our nation deserves it, as well.”

President Donald Trump said he hadn’t yet seen the video of Arbery’s final moments, but said he will be getting a briefing on the case.

“My heart goes out to the parents and the loved ones of the young gentleman. I will be getting a full report this evening,” he said.

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