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‘Justice Demands That Arrests be Made’ After Video of Ahmaud Arbery’s Killing Goes Viral

“The reason that there has not been an indictment, in my opinion, is because these men were white, these men have strong law enforcement ties,” said a lawyer for the victim’s family.

(By: Julia Conley, Common Dreams) After graphic footage showing the fatal shooting two months ago of an unarmed black man named Ahmaud Arbery surfaced on social media late Tuesday, a Georgia prosecutor said he would present the case to a grand jury as soon as possible for consideration of charges against the two men behind the alleged murder.

Prosecutors previously declined to file charges against Gregory McMichael, a former police officer and investigator in the Glynn County, Georgia district attorney’s office, and his son Travis, who appear to chase and shoot at Arbery in the video.

Arbery, who was 25, was jogging through a residential neighborhood outside Brunswick, Georgia on February 23 when Gregory McMichael saw him. McMichael told police, assumed Arbery was a suspect in a string of recent break-ins. Gregory and Travis began chasing Arbery through the neighborhood in their pickup truck, armed with a .357 Magnum revolver and a shotgun.

In the video, taken by a witness in another vehicle, Arbery is seen jogging near the McMichaels’ truck when a gunshot is fired. He is then seen struggling with a man who’s holding a shotgun while another man holds a firearm in the bed of the truck. Several shots are fired before Arbery falls to the ground.

S. Lee Merritt, a lawyer for Arbery’s family, told the New York Times Tuesday that the video shows a “murder.”

“The reason that there has not been an indictment, in my opinion, is because these men were white, these men have strong law enforcement ties,” Merritt told MSNBC Tuesday.

Civil rights advocates on social media called Arbery’s killing a “lynching” and expressed outrage that prosecutors had not already pressed charges against the McMichaels. Attorney Rebecca Kavanagh emphasized that the call by a prosecutor to bring the case before a grand jury came only after the video was publicized.

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On Tuesday, Tom Durden, prosecutor for the Atlantic Judicial Circuit, made the recommendation for a grand jury hearing. A hearing would take place in mid-June at the earliest as grand juries are now prohibited from meeting in Georgia due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Durden was assigned to investigate the case after two other prosecutors recused themselves due to Gregory McMichael’s long career in the Glynn County D.A.’s office.

Before asking to be removed from the case, prosecutor George Barnhill wrote after his investigation that there was “insufficient probable cause to issue arrest warrants at this time” and that Gregory and Travis McMichael were legally carrying their weapons.

Last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) demanded the U.S. Justice Department investigate Arbery’s murder.

“We demand an immediate investigation by federal officials into Ahmaud’s death given local law enforcement’s failure to act,” said SPLC President Margaret Huang. “The killing of Black and brown people must stop, and it begins with each of us demanding accountability and justice.”

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