I’ve been quiet on the Ahmaud Arbery shooting for a little while for one simple reason: I didn’t have enough information. I’m not about to excoriate armed citizens who did the right thing just because the media says I should. No, I want the facts.
And, well, it doesn’t help that the media has sold us a bill of goods previously. From Trayvon Martin to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri we’ve been sold a number of instances as a racially-motivated murder of an unarmed black man…only for us to come to learn that Brown charged the police officer and sought to disarm him, making it a fight for the officer’s life or that Martin was bashing someone’s head against the concrete sidewalk.
There have been other cases as well, of course.
So, I was skeptical. Yet as more information became apparent, so too did my opinion of what happened.
As National Review‘s David Harsanyi notes, this was outright murder.
A new and disturbing video of the shooting of 25-year-old Georgia man named Ahmaud Arbery has emerged. It’s a gut-wrenching thing to watch. Perhaps there will be new evidence, but it’s difficult to envision any way a jury could see this incident as anything but a flat-out murder.
For those who haven’t been following the story: Former cop Gregory McMichael says he saw Arbery “hauling ass” down his street, and assumed the black man was the burglar who had recently been targeting neighborhood homes. McMichael, his son, and a third man, armed with a handgun and a shotgun, got into two cars and chased Arbery down the street.
The older McMichael told police that he shouted at Arbery to stop. Arbery didn’t. When the posse caught up with him there was a confrontation. In the video, Arbery first goes around the vehicle to confront one of the men, and we hear a shot. Then, the video shows Arbery tussling with another man, moving away as we hear the sound of two more shots. Then we see Arbery falling to the ground.
Whatever we might learn moving forward, the entire situation was instigated by the McMichael posse, which made the decision to chase a man down a street after concluding, without any genuine evidence, that he was a burglar.
As Harsanyi points out, even if Arbery was the burglar, it doesn’t excuse McMichael’s actions in any way, and he’s right.
Look, a home invasion is a terrifying thing and if you find a guy in your house and you shoot his butt, well, so much for that. There’s an understanding that an intruder in your home represents a clear threat to you and your family, and so using lethal force is justified in most states.
But Arbery wasn’t supposedly found inside someone’s home. No, he was running down a public street. His family says he did that because he liked to stay in shape. He certainly looks dressed for a run, but even if he wasn’t, running down the street doesn’t constitute probable cause.
As Allahpundit noted over at our sister site Hot Air, even if it did, McMichael and his son didn’t have the authority to try and stop him.
Let’s go step by step here. Step one is Georgia’s statute authorizing citizen’s arrests in certain cases:
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.
Note well: “[I]f the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge.” If you’re going to make a citizen’s arrest instead of phoning the cops, you’d better be very, very sure that your man is guilty of the offense he’s suspected of.
McMichael simply saw Arbery running and figured, “Yep. That must be him.” He claims that Arbery fit the description of the suspect, but there’s a problem with that. You see, descriptions tend to be vague. That means he didn’t have “immediate knowledge” that Arbery did anything wrong.
As such, he had no business being out there. None whatsoever.
Some have argued that the moment Arbery tried to “go after” the gun, he became a legitimate threat. And, well, isn’t that what Michael Brown did?
Well, not really. Brown charged a uniformed police officer who was making a lawful arrest.
Arbery was faced with a couple of white guys pointing guns at him in the middle of the street. They weren’t cops, didn’t identify themselves as cops, and were trying to stop him while he was carrying out a lawful activity. Further, neither of those two guys had any business trying to stop him from doing anything.
As such, he was defending himself.
To say they were justified in shooting him is to claim that a criminal is acting in self-defense if he shoots his victim when that victim tries to disarm him. It’s bullcrap and everyone should know it.
As if that wasn’t enough of a tragedy in and of itself, there’s the seeming reluctance by the authorities not to press charges as of this writing. There’s no way that’s justified either. It seems pretty clear from where I sit and from where a lot of other people sit as well, many of them attorneys rather than laymen like me.
Over recent years, we’ve encountered a lot of bogus claims of racially-motivated violence. However, on this one, I can’t help but wonder if race did play a factor. After all, it seems Arbery’s only “crime” was to run while black. I can’t and won’t say for certain that it was, of course. I don’t know what was in the heart of those men who confronted an unarmed individual simply because he sort of looked like someone else, but it sure doesn’t look good.
As Harsanyi points out, folks on social media are trying to justify this response, but they really can’t. Claiming that Arbery’s previous criminal record makes a difference is irrelevant. No one ran a background check on the guy before trying to apprehend him, for crying out loud. This is nothing more than an attempt and victim-blaming and anyone with an ounce of intellectual honesty can see that.