(AP) — Three white men have been indicted on murder charges in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man fatally shot while running in a neighborhood near Georgia’s coast.
Prosecutor Joyette Holmes announced Wednesday that a grand jury has indicted Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr on charges including malice and felony murder in Arbery’s death.
“This is another positive step, another great step for finding justice for Ahmaud, for finding justice for this family and the community beyond,” Holmes said at a news conference outside the Glynn County courthouse in Brunswick that was streamed online by news outlets.
Arbery’s death has often been invoked during protests against racial injustice that have broken out across the nation since George Floyd’s death last month under a white Minneapolis police officer’s knee. Arbery’s death also fuelled a renewed push for a state hate crimes law in Georgia, which state lawmakers passed on Tuesday.
Lawyers for the McMichaels have cautioned against a rush to judgment and have said the full story will come out in court. A lawyer for Bryan has maintained that his client was merely a witness.
Arbery was slain Feb 23 when Greg and Travis McMichael, a father and son, armed themselves and pursued the 25-year-old black man running in their neighborhood. Greg McMichael told police he suspected Arbery was a burglar and that Arbery attacked his son before being shot. Arbery’s family has said he was out for a jog.
Bryan lives in the same subdivision, just outside the port city of Brunswick. Bryan said he saw the McMichaels driving by and joined the chase, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Richard Dial testified earlier this month at a probable cause hearing.
It wasn’t until May 7 — two days after Bryan’s cellphone video leaked online and stirred a national outcry — that the McMichaels were arrested. Bryan was arrested on May 22, and an arrest warrant said he tried “to confine and detain” Arbery without legal authority by “utilising his vehicle on multiple occasions” before Arbery was shot.
Bryan told investigators that Travis McMichael cursed and said a racist slur as he stood over Arbery, moments after he fatally shot him, Dial testified.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case after the video surfaced. The state attorney general appointed Holmes, who’s the district attorney in Cobb County near Atlanta, to prosecute after the local district attorney recused herself because Greg McMichael had worked for her — and two other outside prosecutors also stepped aside.
In addition to malice murder and felony murder charges, the McMichaels and Bryan each are charged with two counts of aggravated assault and one count each of false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
Under Georgia law, a felony murder charge means that a death occurred during the commission of an underlying felony and doesn’t require intent to kill. Malice murder requires “malice aforethought, either express or implied.” Any murder conviction in Georgia carries a minimum sentence of life in prison, either with or without the possibility of parole.