By Edelia Dr. Jay Carthan,
Social media outcry and public concern are high after the released of a graphic video showing 25 year-old Ahmaud Arbery’s murder. Arbery, who is African-American, was gunned down February 23 while jogging in Satilla Shores, a majority white neighborhood, outside of Brunswick, Georgia, while a third man filmed the gruesome act.
Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son, Travis Michael, 34, were arrested May 7 and charged with murder and aggravated assault for the murder of Arbery according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
The arrests came two days after public outrage via social media after the release of the graphic video showing Arbery being hunted and gunned down. Since then, more videos have been released. The video from a nearby surveillance camera shows a jogger, what appears to be Arbery, briefly entering a home under construction. A third video from inside the house under construction, shows Arbery looking around and then leaving, emptied handed, to continue his jog.
Attorneys for Arbery’s family believe he was the victim of racial profiling after he was jogging in the majority white neighborhood. Gregory McMichael told the police that he and his son grabbed their guns and chased Arbery in their truck, believing he was responsible for burglaries in their neighborhood. When they confronted him, the father told police Arbery attacked Travis according to a police incident report. The two struggled for his shotgun and Travis killed him.
Arbery died from two shotgun wounds, and suffered a third according to the Glynn County Coroner autopsy conducted Feb. 24 – the day after Arbery’s death.
The autopsy revealed that Arbery died from two close ranged shotgun wounds in his chest and x-rays showed two separate types of buckshot pellets. Arbery also had a graze wound on his right wrist consistent with what the video shows. The autopsy confirms that Arbery was hit by all three shots. The coroner, Edmund Donoghue, said the cause of death was “multiple shotgun wounds” and described his death as a “homicide.” Test also showed that Arbery had no alcohol or drugs in his system at the time of his death.
The two gunmen were free for two months until the release of the video and pressure from protesters, social media and even celebrities. Jay-Z’s Roc Nation published an open letter in the Atlanta Journal Constitution calling for a special prosecutor to be appointed to ensure a fair trial.
There have been three district attorneys assigned to this case and now a fourth. The first district attorney, Jackie L. Johnson, rescued herself from the case, stating that Gregory McMichael, the father, a former police officer, had been a longtime investigator in her office until his retirement last May. The case was then taken over by George E. Barnhill, a Waycross district attorney, who advised police that there was insufficient cause to arrest the father and son according to a letter first obtained and reported by the New York Times.
Georgia attorney general, Chris Carr, is now calling for the Department of Justice to investigate the handling of the Ahmaud Arbery case. The National District Attorneys Association issued a statement disagreeing with Barnhill’s decision of whether the McMichaels should be arrested after he recused himself at the request of Arbery’s family.
On May 8 celebrities and supporters of Arbery posted pictures and tweets of themselves walking and jogging along with the hashtag #iRunwithMaud. Celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Alicia Keys and Viola Davis also paid tribute to Arbery on what would have been his 26th birthday.
Edelia J. Carthan, Ed.D, assistant professor of Education at Tougaloo College and executive director of the Freedom Democratic Party, resides in Byrum, MS.