The parents of a Black man slain in a pursuit by two white men armed with guns called for immediate arrests Wednesday as they faced the prospect of waiting a month or longer before a Georgia grand jury could consider bringing charges.
A swelling outcry over the Feb. 23 shooting of Ahmaud Arbery intensified after a cellphone video that lawyers for his family say shows the killing surfaced online Tuesday.
Following the video’s release, a large crowd of demonstrators marched in the neighborhood where Arbery was killed, and the state opened its own investigation, which the governor and attorney general pledged to support. The men who pursued Arbery told police they suspected he had committed a recent burglary.
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, told reporters Wednesday she believes her 25-year-old son “was just out for his daily jog” in a neighborhood outside the port city of Brunswick. She hasn’t watched the video.
“I saw my son come into the world,” Jones said. “And seeing him leave the world, it’s not something that I’ll want to see ever.”
No arrests have been made or charges filed in coastal Glynn County more than two months after the killing. An outside prosecutor in charge of the case said he wants a grand jury to decide whether criminal charges are warranted. That won’t happen until at least mid-June, since Georgia courts remain largely closed because of the coronavirus.
Attorneys for Arbery’s family said the father and son, who have acknowledged in a police report grabbing guns and pursuing Arbery in a truck after seeing him running in their neighborhood, should be arrested now before a grand jury decides whether to indict them — as often happens in criminal cases.
“These men were vigilantes, they were a posse and they performed a modern lynching in the middle of the day,” said Lee Merritt, an attorney for Arbery’s mother.
According to an incident report filed by Glynn County police, Arbery was shot after two men spotted him running in their neighborhood on a Sunday afternoon. Gregory McMichael told police that he and his adult son thought the runner 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, Travis McMichael, got out of the truck holding a shotgun, and Arbery “began to violently attack.” He said Arbery was shot as the two men fought over the shotgun, according to the police report.
After Arbery was shot, the police report says, Gregory McMichael turned him onto his back to see if he was armed. The report doesn’t say whether he had a weapon.
A phone number listed for Gregory McMichael has been disconnected. The Associated Press could not immediately find a phone listing for Travis McMichael.