On Monday, new video footage showed police in Georgia trying to tase Ahmaud Arbery in an attempted car search in 2017. The video has sparked questions over Arbery’s murder earlier this year and how the case was handled by the same police department. According to his lawyer, the footage is “the criminalisation of blackness itself.”
The body camera footage, which was obtained through a public records request by The Guardian, shows Glynn County Police officer Michael Kanago after he pulls up behind Arbery’s parked car. According to the police incident report, Kanago stopped Arbery on 7th November 2017 around 9 am because the area has a reputation for drug activity and he suspected Arbery of using marijuana. Arbery said he didn’t have drugs and refused to let Kanago search his car.
Kanago then asked for Arbery’s ID and searched him for weapons, finding that he was unarmed. “You’re bothering me for nothing,” Arbery told Kanago in the footage. Arbery explained that he was relaxing and rapping in his car on his day off from work. The incident escalated when Arbery began to question why Kanago was hassling him. In the incident report, the officer wrote: “I observed veins popping from [Arbery’s] chest which made me feel that he was becoming enraged and may turn physically violent toward me.”
Kanago reportedly requested help from a second officer, David Haney, who shortly after arriving, attempted to tase Arbery when he again refused to let them search his car. Haney’s taser malfunctioned, according to Kanago’s report. Haney then asked Arbery to get on the ground, which Arbery did. “I get one day off a week...I’m up early in the morning trying to chill,” Arbery told the officers as he was on the ground. “I’m just so aggravated because I work hard, six days a week.” The incident ends with police allowing Arbery to leave; however, they would not permit him to take his car because his driver’s license was suspended, reports The Guardian. Refinery29 contacted the Glynn County Police Department for comment.
“The same reason that Ahmaud Arbery was killed was the same reason he was stopped in that park: it was the criminalisation of blackness itself,” said S. Lee Merritt, Arbery’s family’s attorney said in a press conference on Tuesday. Merritt continued to say that there was “no justifiable reason” for Arbery to be threatened with a taser. “This appears to be just a glimpse into the kind of scrutiny Ahmaud Arbery faced not only by this police department, but ultimately regular citizens like the McMichaels and their posse, pretending to be police officers.”
The footage comes to light as the Glynn County Police are under scrutiny after news broke that Arbery was shot and killed by two white men who chased him down in their car as Arbery was on a run through their neighbourhood. Police did not arrest Gregory and Travis McMichael at the time, and prosecutor George Barnhill, who was assigned to the case, wrote a memo explaining why the killing was legally justified. Barnhill eventually recused himself citing that his son had worked with Gregory McMichael in the district attorney’s office.
Prior to Arbery’s murder, the Glynn County Police Department was facing pressure to disband following a string of recent corruption scandals. It wasn’t until the Georgia Bureau of Investigation got involved in early May that arrests were made and charges were filed.
Currently, the McMichaels are being held on charges of murder and aggravated assault. Defence lawyers for the McMichaels said they plan to ask that the father and son be released from jail on bond pending trial, reports the Associated Press. Lawyers for the McMichaels asked the public to not rush to judgement. Attorneys for Arbery’s parents responded with a statement to AP saying, “We only wish that their client, Travis McMichael, had provided that same presumption of innocence to Ahmaud Arbery before chasing and killing him.”