A Modern Day Lynching


photo of Gregory and Travis McMichael
Gregory & Travis McMichael booking photo

The Murder of Ahmaud Arbery

25 year old Ahmaud Arbery went for a run on the afternoon of February 23. It was an area he had run in before but this run would be fatal. There had been burglaries in the area and at least one of three men felt that Arbery looked like the man supposedly seen on surveillance cameras. (An open records request by media came back with a negative finding for such surveillance footage). We don’t yet know the full details of what happened. There are gaps in the story. Three men jumped in vehicles to chase Arbery; Gregory McMichael (64), his son Travis (34) and another man, William Bryan. One account says Bryan jumped in the vehicle with the McMichaels but the video is taken by him in a separate vehicle.

The McMichaels drive past Arbery as he is running and stop further down the road. Gregory is in the bed of the pickup truck and is armed with a .357 magnum. Travis was the driver. He gets out of the vehicle holding a shotgun. Arbery continues jogging down the road toward the vehicle. When he sees Travis standing in the open door of the vehicle holding a shotgun, Arbery swerves and jogs on the right-hand side of the vehicle. Travis moves to the front of the vehicle and starts yelling at Arbery to stop. Arbery is faced with the choice to keep running with the possibility of being shot in the back or rush the shooter in a desperate attempt to save himself. He rushes the shooter. A struggle ensues and Arbery is shot 3 times. He falls to the street and dies.

Black and White Justice

And the cover-up begins. Arbery’s mother was told that he was shot while committing a burglary. No charges were filed against the McMichaels. More than two months go by while suspicion and anger continues to rise in the local community. Arbery’s mother says she wants a different district attorney and D. A. Barnhill writes a resentment filled statement to the Glynn County Police Chief.

In the statement, D.A. Barnhill comes across as being very biased. He says that it is his opinion that the men were “following in, ‘hot pursuit’, a burglary suspect, with solid first hand probable cause.” But all we have heard is that the McMichaels said Arbery looked like the person they saw in some unknown video. I haven’t see a single thing that’s says they knew for a fact it was him or that they witnessed him committing a crime. There were two calls made to the police about Arbery. In the first, the dispatcher had to interrupt the caller to ask, “I just need to know what he was doing wrong.” The dispatcher never got an answer. In the second call, 6 minutes later, the caller says, “I’m out here at Satilla Shores. “There’s a black male running down the street.” Yet Barnhill says this is solid first hand probable cause and cites the law allowing for a citizen arrest, ignoring the part that says, “…if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge,” none of which was the case.

Victim Blaming and Lies

The twisting of the law wasn’t enough for D.A. Barnhill. He goes on to blame the victim, saying that Arbery initiated the attack, totally disregarding the fact that threatening someone with a gun is an attack. He then tries to make the shooting Arbery’s fault by implying that Arbery trying to take the gun away from the man who was threatening him was what made the gun go off, so basically, Arbery shot himself. D.A. Barnhill then concludes his defense for his lack of action with, “Arbery’s mental health records & prior convictions help explain his apparent aggressive nature and his possible thought pattern to attack an armed man.” Mr. Arbery has no history of mental health issues and his arrest record has one shoplifting charge from when he was in high school. There is nothing to indicate an aggressive nature.

The Story Falls Apart

On Tuesday, May 5, a defense attorney, Alan Tucker, leaked the video and the outcry from the public forced more action. The case had been given to another district attorney because of the complaint against Barnhill. On May 5, after the release of the video, D.A. Durden asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) to investigate. They received the case file early Wednesday morning and spent well into the night reviewing it. They did follow-up interviews on Thursday and at 5:00 pm had a conference call at which they decided there was “more than enough sufficient probable cause.” The McMichaels were arrested at approximately 7:45 pm, for Murder and Aggravated Assault. They were booked into the Glynn County Detention Center.

William Bryan has not been charged with anything yet but the case is still being investigated. According to Insider.com, “The police report identifies him as involved in the pursuit of Arbery.”

Racism or Law Enforcement Connections?

Three white men basically form a hunting party and chase down and kill a black man who they think may have committed a crime. This is exactly the kind of thing that used to happen in the 60s. The only difference was a gun was used instead of a rope. So why weren’t these men charged immediately? I would have to say it was both racism and law enforcement connections.

It’s obvious that Arbrey was automatically assumed to be a criminal and that determination was made because he was black. Remember, “there’s a black man running down the street.” No crime is named. Just the fact that he is black and running. Add that to the fact that Gregory McMichael has more than 30 years in law enforcement, 7 years as a Glynn County Police Officer and more than 20 years as a district attorney’s investigator out of the very department that D.A. Barnhill works in, and the whole thing stinks.

Today is Ahmaud Arbery’s birthday. He would have been 26.


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