Governor Says Georgians Deserve Answers In Ahmaud Arbery's Death

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is among those now weighing in on the death of 26-year old Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot and killed while jogging in Brunswick, Georgia on February 23rd. Gregory McMichael, who fired the fatal shots, says he was acting to protect himself and his son from Arbery after the pair tried to stop him to make a citizen’s arrest, with McMichaels telling police that he believed that Arbery was responsible for recent burglaries in the neighborhood.

In a post on Twitter, Kemp said that Georgians deserve answers about the killing of Arbery.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr also weighed in on social media, saying he was deeply concerned with the events surrounding the shooting of Arbery.

Carr is right to be concerned, because based on the video showing Arbery’s death that began circulating on social media earlier this week, McMichaels and his son appear to be the instigators of the attack, rather than acting in self-defense.

Over at Hot Air, Allahpundit has a good summary of what we know about the case to date, and he points out that McMichaels never had cause to make a citizen’s arrest in the first place. Even if McMichaels suspected Arbery of burgling homes in the neighborhood in the past, that’s not cause to make a citizen’s arrest under Georgia law, which states that:

A private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge. If the offense is a felony and the offender is escaping or attempting to escape, a private person may arrest him upon reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion.

Ahmaud Arbery committed no crime in the presence of Gregory McMichaels and his son Travis. Arbery was simply jogging down the road in broad daylight on a Sunday afternoon. If McMichaels truly believed that Arbery was responsible for the recent burglaries, he should have phoned the police and told them he thought he spotted a suspect. It’s likely that officers would have politely thanked McMichaels and ignored the call, because McMichaels had absolutely no evidence to back up his suspicions.

Instead, McMichaels and his son took off from their home in pursuit of Arbery, with a third man, identified only as “Roddy” in police reports, followed close behind. Eventually the three boxed in Arbery with their vehicles, and McMichaels told police that he shouted out to Arbery, “Stop, stop, we want to talk to you.”

Put yourself in Ahmaud Arbery’s shoes. You’re out jogging when all of a sudden two cars start to chase you, one of them eventually cutting you off in the road. You turn around to run the other way and avoid the strangers, when another car pulls up in front of you. What do these guys want? Would you really stop to talk to them, or would you try to get the hell away?

Arbery ended up running around the front of McMichael’s pickup truck, only to be confronted by Travis McMichaels, who was holding a shotgun. In the video, you begin to see Arbery struggle with Travis McMichaels over the shotgun before he’s shot by the elder McMichaels, who’s standing in the bed of the truck.

Here’s Allahpundit again, with the money quote.

McMichael would say that he was just protecting his son as a suspected burglar made a move to grab his son’s weapon. Arbery would say that his life was being threatened by a group of men and he defended himself by trying to disarm them. Maybe he was a burglar who was trying to get away, or maybe he was just a black man out for a jog and terrified that he’d run into a group of the wrong white men on the wrong day.

Here’s the point: It doesn’t matter. There’s no reason why the McMichaels should have confronted Arbery even if he’s guilty of everything they suspect him of. They’re not cops. They didn’t personally witness him commit any crime. The risk that they would misidentify an innocent man as a criminal was perfectly foreseeable, especially to a former cop like McMichael. They should have called the sheriff, who could have stopped Arbery lawfully and used the surveillance video mentioned in the police report to determine if he really was the burglary suspect they’re looking for. Why didn’t they do that?

Arbery’s death was absolutely avoidable and I believe is prosecutable as well. The McMichaels had no justifiable reason to confront Arbery, had no right to make a citizen’s arrest in those circumstances, and Arbery had every right to protect himself when two strangers tried to stop him at gunpoint by trying to disarm Travis McMichaels.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is now investigating the case at the request of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit District Attorney Tom Durden, who says he will bring the case to a grand jury. The GBI is also, at the request of the Glynn County Police Department, looking into the release of the video and allegations of threats made against local officers who were a part of the original investigation.

The fact that the elder McMichaels is a former police officer, as well as the racial dynamics of the case have only served to further fuel the outrage and controversy of Arbery’s death. The best way to quell those tensions is for law enforcement, including the DA, to be as transparent as possible and to quickly move forward with the grand jury investigation. At the moment, the Georgia Supreme Court has declared that no grand jury or trial jury can be empaneled until June 13th because of coronavirus concerns, but with Gov. Brian Kemp already relaxing his stay-at-home order, and tensions ratcheting up over the death of Arbery, the Georgia Supreme Court might want to consider moving up their start date to re-open grand jury investigations.