Three white men have been indicted by a Georgia grand jury in the death of Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery. Gregory McMichael, 64; his son Travis McMichael, 34; and their neighbour William Bryan have been indicted by a U.S. grand jury on nine counts each. If convicted, they each face life in prison without parole. Arbery’s death received national attention after video of his February 23 killing went viral. The 25-year-old had been out jogging when men chased him down in a truck and shot him.
The indictment comes just over a month after the men were arrested, and the McMichaels’ arrests came just days after the video was released; Bryan was arrested several weeks later. Each man is facing charges of malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
According to Charlie Bailey, an Atlanta-area lawyer and former assistant district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, malice murder is the most serious of the charges the trio is facing. Bailey told the New York Times that, under Georgia law, malice murder is “the intentional killing of a person with malice or forethought” and that “malice can be formed in an instant.”
“This confirms what Ahmaud’s father has been saying for months, that this was a lynching,” Benjamin Crump, one of the lawyers representing Mr. Arbery’s family, said in a statement to The Guardian. “This is a significant step on the road to justice and while nothing will bring back Ahmaud’s life, it is important that a grand jury recognized his life had value and was wrongly and ruthlessly ended.”
These charges followed mass outrage and a demanded justice for Arbery’s killing. Arbery was jogging in a neighbourhood outside of Brunswick, Georgia on a Sunday afternoon. According to surveillance video, he stopped inside a house under construction, then continued on his way. The McMichaels claim that they thought he was a robbery suspect, so they grabbed their guns and got into a pickup truck to pursue him. Bryan followed in his vehicle and filmed the killing.
The video shows Arbery jog towards a white pickup truck that is parked in the middle of the street. Travis McMichael can be seen standing next to the vehicle with his shotgun pointed at Arbery as he approaches. Arbery tries to go around the passenger side of the vehicle to avoid Travis. After a brief struggle, Travis shoots Arbery. Bryan reportedly said he heard Travis use a racial slur after shooting Arbery.
“This is another step forward in seeking justice for Ahmaud,” District Attorney Joyette M. Holmes of Cobb County said in a statement to the New York Times. “We will continue to be intentional in the pursuit of justice for this family and the community at large as the prosecution of this case continues.”
Arbery’s death has been one of many that has spurred a nationwide uprising protesting racist violence against Black people in the United States. As the country continues to grapple with deaths of George Floyd, Elijah McClain, and so many other unarmed Black people, the nationwide attention to these killings has created a movement to reevaluate policing systems along with systemic racism on a wide scale.