Glynn Commissioner, D.A. offer differing accounts of Ahmaud Arbery timeline

ACTION NEWS JAX INVESTIGATES: 74 days to make arrests in Ahmaud Arbery case

Action News Jax investigates why it took more than two months for Ahmaud Arbery’s alleged killers to be arrested.

Friday, Jacksonville became home to calls for justice in the Arbery case. Roughly 150 people gathered in front of the Duval County Courthouse, calling for a conviction.

ORIGINAL STORY: Ahmaud Arbery case: Man killed in Brunswick in February, shooter not arrested

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“That could’ve been one of my boys, so this is just, in my mind, the responsible thing to do,” supporter Sheila Jackson said.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, 36 hours after getting involved, charged Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael with felony murder and aggravated assault.

This happened Feb. 23, and those arrests just came Thursday.

Glynn County commissioners are over the Glynn County Police Department.

Commissioner J. Peter Murphy said on Feb. 23, investigators spoke with an assistant district attorney in District Attorney Jackie Johnson’s office.

“The assistant attorney that worked for our district attorney’s office asked the investigator if she thought the McMichaels were a flight risk because they’ve been in the community so long,” Murphy said. “She said ‘No, they don’t seem to be a flight risk.’ And she was told that there were to be no arrests made that first night.”

Johnson would recuse herself, citing connections to Gregory McMichael, a former investigator in her office.

Murphy said after she sent it to Waycross District Attorney George Barnhill, officers were again instructed not to make an arrest, as this was a case of self-defense.

“Both offices, within 24 hours, tell them no arrests are to be made in this high-profile case,” Murphy said. “What are the officers supposed to do, cuff up these two men and bring them into the jail? What’s going to happen then?”

But, in a statement, Johnson refutes this timeline, saying at no time on Feb. 2, did she or any assistant district attorney direct any officer not to make an arrest.

She adds, “Under Georgia law, the district attorney has no arrest powers. Rather, it is the duty and obligation of the law enforcement officer to determine probable cause for arrest.”

There are calls for both district attorneys to resign.

Action News Jax reached out to the Glynn County Police Department Friday and is still waiting for a response.

District Attorney Jackie Johnson’s full statement:

"It is unfortunate that Commissioners Murphy and Booker have chosen to make false accusations against District Attorney Jackie Johnson in an attempt to make excuses and ignore the problems at the Glynn County Police Department, for which they are ultimately responsible. Acting Police Chief Jay Wiggins has indicated that it was a mistake that then Police Chief John Powell did not immediately call in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate the death of Ahmaud Arbery.

As evidenced by the events of this week, the GBI was able to investigate, make a probable cause determination, and make arrests within two days of receiving the case. That is what a law enforcement agency does. If the Glynn County Police Department is unable to make a probable cause determination on its own, why do we have a Police Department?

Under Georgia law, the District Attorney has no arrest powers. Rather, it is the duty and obligation of the law enforcement officer to determine probable cause for arrest. The District Attorney is available to advise on the law. Our District Attorney's office’s willingness to assist law enforcement officers on matters of law is now being used by the Glynn County Police Department as an excuse to pass the buck and fail to act.

When two Assistant District Attorneys were contacted by the Glynn County Police Department on February 23, 2020, they immediately cited a conflict of interest and stated our office could not be involved. Our office offered to facilitate getting assistance from another District Attorney's office.

At no time on February 23, 2020, did District Attorney Jackie Johnson have any conversation with any Glynn County police officer about this case. Further, no Assistant District Attorney in the office directed any Glynn County police officer not to make an arrest.

While our office did assist in putting the Glynn County Police Department in contact with the District Attorney in the Waycross Circuit, we did not direct his actions or appoint him to the case. Rather, that was done by the Attorney General’s Office of the State of Georgia. Our office made the Attorney General aware of our conflict and recusal by letter on February 25, 2020."

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Glynn Commisser, D.A. offer differing accounts of Ahmaud Arbery timeline