It’s been more than two months since a former Georgia police officer and his son allegedly followed, shot, and killed an unarmed Black jogger on Feb. 23. But somehow prosecutors are just getting around to seeking charges in the incident, according to a press release from prosecutors Tuesday. District Attorney Pro Tempore Tom Durden said in the release that other prosecutors recused themselves "because of either prior employment and/or familial relationships."
Durden, who was appointed April 13, said after his investigation into the death of Ahmaud Arbery: “I am of the opinion that the case should be presented to the grand jury of Glynn County for consideration of criminal charges.”
Grand juries are, however, prohibited from convening through June 12 in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic. "I have no control over the suspensions due to the pandemic; however, I do intend to present the case to the next available grand jury in Glynn County,” Durden said.
Although the district attorney’s press release failed to name the accused men, they have been identified as ex-police officer Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael, according to CNN. Before Durden’s recent statement, one prosecutor defended Travis and argued that he's protected by a state law that allows citizens to make arrests, the news network reported.
In a 911 call CBS obtained, however, the caller can’t even definitively say that Arbery committed a break-in. By the caller’s own admission, the man later identified as Arbery was doing little more than jogging in front of a southeast Georgia home that had before been broken into. When the dispatcher on the call asked: "And you said someone is breaking into it right now?" The caller responded: "No it's all open. It's under construction, and he's running right now. There he goes right now."
Arbery, a 25-year-old former high school football player, lived near the coastal community in Glynn County that he was accused of trying to burglarize, The New York Times reported. His familiarity, however, didn't protect the athlete from apparent racial profiling. Gregory spotted Arbery in the front yard of a home under construction, called out to his son, and got into a truck to follow Arbery, according to an incident report the Times obtained. The men had a .357 magnum revolver and a shotgun in tow, the Times reported.
“Stop, stop,” they yelled when they caught up to Arbery, “we want to talk to you.” A struggle over the shotgun ensued at some point in the confrontation, and Arbery was shot at least two times, according to the Times.
Attorney Lee Merritt, who’s representing Arbery’s family, said three shots were fired in the incident. He also mentioned a third unnamed man involved in the incident and released cell phone footage of the moments leading up to Arbery’s death on social media Tuesday.
“#AhmaudArbery was murdered by 3 white men that saw him running & decided to impute criminality on him,” Merritt tweeted. “He did nothing wrong. Still he was stalked, threatened & shot 3x at close range. This was not only murder it was a lynching."
Merritt told civil rights activist Al Sharpton on his MSNBC show, "PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton," that the worst that could be said about Arbery is that he stopped at a home under construction and allegedly looked in the window, but more could be said of prosecutors tasked with holding criminals accountable.
Merritt said Gregory used to work with the very district attorney’s office that would have been responsible for prosecuting him, so that district attorney recused herself. "It passed over to the next county, and there, the district attorney failed to disclose his close ties to this family," Merritt said. Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper, discovered the ties and asked the prosecutor to recuse himself, Merritt said. "He did but not before offering a very poor opinion on the state of the law that would have justified this shooting," Merritt said.