Charles M. Blow, New York Times, May 6, 2020
The video is short and shocking.
It’s taken from the perspective of a vehicle following a young black man running at a jogger’s pace. The jogger is 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery. Arbery approaches a pickup truck parked in the street. There are two white men, one outside the vehicle with a shotgun, 34-year-old Travis McMichael, and the other, his father, 64-year-old Gregory McMichael, standing aloft in the flatbed.
The McMichaels had reportedly chased Arbery, blocking his path at another location, at which point he had turned around and jogged another way to avoid them.
In the video, when the men encounter each other, there’s immediately an altercation. Arbery and the younger McMichael fight for control of the shotgun.
After Arbery fell, the younger McMichael rolled over the limp body “to see if the male had a weapon,” according to a police report. There was blood on McMichael’s hands when the police arrived.
Arbery died of his wounds.
This is how the police report detailed the father’s explanation for why he and his son chased Arbery:
“McMichael stated he was in his front yard and saw the suspect from the break-ins ‘hauling ass’ down Satilla Drive toward Burford Drive. McMichael stated he then ran inside his house and called to Travis (McMichael) and said, ‘Travis, the guy is running down the street, let’s go.’ McMichael stated he went to his bedroom and grabbed his .357 Magnum and Travis grabbed his shotgun because they ‘didn’t know if the male was armed or not.”
Neither of the McMichaels was arrested or charged. From the time this happened in late February, they have had the luxury of sleeping in their own beds, free men, while Arbery’s body is confined to a coffin, deep in a grave at New Springfield Baptist Church in Alexander, Ga.
According to The New York Times, “Gregory McMichael is a former Glynn County police officer and a former investigator with the local district attorney’s office who retired last May.” The local prosecutor recused herself from the case because Gregory McMichael had worked in her office. The next prosecutor, a district attorney, also recused himself because his son worked for the district attorney for whom Gregory McMichael had worked.
But, before the second prosecutor’s recusal, he said in a letter obtained by The Times:
“It appears Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and Bryan Williams were following in ‘hot pursuit,’ a burglary suspect, with solid first hand probable cause, in their neighborhood, and asking/telling him to stop. It appears their intent was to stop and hold this criminal suspect until law enforcement arrived. Under Georgia law this is perfectly legal.”
The third and current prosecutor on the case said Tuesday that the case should be heard by a grand jury.
The recused prosecutor’s letter states: “Given the fact Arbery initiated the fight, at the point Arbery grabbed the shotgun, under Georgia law, McMichael was allowed to use deadly force to protect himself.”