BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Family, friends and community members will come together Tuesday in remembrance of Ahmaud Arbery.
Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, said a memorial service will take place Tuesday at 5 p.m. at the New Springfield Baptist Church in Waynesboro, Georgia.
Both events come exactly one year after loved ones said the 25-year-old Glynn County man was killed while out for a jog.
On Feb. 23, 2020, Arbery died after being shot while running in Satilla Shores, a suburban Brunswick neighborhood. Four days later, Brunswick District Attorney Jackie L. Johnson recused herself from the case, citing a conflict of interest because one of the defendants, Gregory McMichael, was a former police officer and an investigator for her office. Months went by with no arrests.
In early April, Waycross District Attorney George Barnhill took over the case and found there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone for killing Arbery. After pressure from Arbery’s family, Barnhill recused himself citing a conflict of interest because his son had worked with Gregory McMichael. On April 13, 2020, a third prosecutor, District Attorney Tom Durden of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit, became the head of the investigation.
On May 5, 2020, the case gained national attention. A cellphone video showing Arbery’s final moments emerged online, reigniting the case.
Click here to see the footage of Ahmaud Arbery’s fatal shooting. Warning: The footage is graphic in nature.
The Arbery family attorney, Lee Merritt, said the video showed Arbery running in the neighborhood. Then, a white pickup can be seen stopped in the street ahead. According to a police report, Gregory McMichael, and his son, Travis, were in that truck. The report stated the McMichaels got in their truck to go after Arbery because they believed he was involved in previous break-ins in the neighborhood.
As Arbery approached the truck, the video showed that the driver was already out, armed with a shotgun. Arbery appeared to run around to the other side and the two men got into a confrontation at the front. Gregory claimed that Arbery violently attacked his son. Three shots can be heard in the video before Arbery falls to the ground. In the initial report, McMichael said his son fired two shots, and both men were armed. They were later arrested on May 7, 2020, and charged with murder and aggravated assault.
With the release of the video came another question: Who recorded it?
On May, 10, 2020, Action News Jax’s Bridgette Matter spoke exclusively with William ‘Roddie’ Bryan, who recorded the video. After the arrests of the McMichaels, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced that Bryan was also under investigation. The initial police report mentioned Bryan: “Roddy attempted to block him, which was unsuccessful.” But Bryan denied being part of the confrontation that led to Arbery’s death. “I had nothing to do with it. I’m trying to get my life back to normal, and it’s been smeared for the last week,” Bryan said at the time. The GBI later announced his arrest on May 21, 2020, on charges of felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
The three men entered not guilty pleas in July 2020. In November 2020, a judge denied a bond request for the McMichaels. Lawyers for the father and son argued they should be out of jail, making the case that the McMichaels were good people and were not a flight risk. Prosecutors argued that they are racists and pose a threat and that Greg McMichael was abusing his position as a former law enforcement officer.
In December 2020, newly-released body camera videos show when officers first arrived on the scene on Feb. 23. WSB-TV’s Tony Thomas asked for all of the video entered in as evidence. It is the best look so far at the scene where Arbery was killed and how quickly the suspects realized there was video of the incident.
During the prosecution process, an attorney for the McMichaels stated that they were using Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law, which allows a private citizen to arrest another person who is committing a crime.
Under Georgia law, any Georgian who believes they are a witness to a crime and a potential suspect is trying to flee can arrest that person.
After a thorough investigation, the GBI disregarded the citizen’s arrest. Since then, activists have made a push to change the state’s legislation.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp recently announced legislation to overhaul the Citizen’s Arrest Bill.
With the wanted overhaul of the bill, it does not mean Georgia citizens no longer have the right to defend themselves.
“This bill repeals the current Civil War-era statute in order to prevent the terrible consequences of a vague and outdated law, and clarifies when a citizen, business owner, or law enforcement officer may reasonably detain an individual,” Kemp stated.
The overhaul of this bill will close significant loopholes.
The call for action came just before the one-year mark of Arbery’s death.
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