“You didn’t bring a gun to the encounter — you didn’t fire a gun, Wood told Bryan. She added that Bryan also turned over his cellphone video of the shooting, which became “crucial evidence.”
On the afternoon of Feb. 23, 2020, Bryan jumped in his truck to follow Greg McMichael, who was sitting in the passenger seat of his son Travis’s pickup truck. They father and son were pursuing Arbery, who was unarmed, under the assumption he had entered a house under construction in the Satilla Shores neighborhood just south of Brunswick. The chase ended with Travis McMichael firing three shotgun blasts into Arbery, who soon crumbled to the pavement and died at the scene.
All three men were convicted of Arbery’s murder during a state trial that ended last November. Glynn County Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley sentenced the McMichaels to life in prison without the possibility of parole and Bryan to life in prison with a chance to be paroled.
In February, the three men were convicted once again in Brunswick, this time for federal hate crimes. The jury found they targeted Arbery because he was Black.
Before sentencing, Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery, asked U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood to give Bryan the maximum punishment possible.
“You had time to think,” Arbery said of Bryan. “You were on your porch that day. ... But all you seen was a Black man running down the street.”
Arbery added, “If you wasn’t racist, you would have stayed out of it, hit 911 and tried to help my son.”
Wanda Cooper Jones, Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, told Wood that Bryan “made that decision, no one else did.”
She said her son was out for a jog that day and had not committed a crime. But Bryan “didn’t have a thought — let me help this young man. He got in his truck and helped corner him.”
If Bryan is granted parole by the state parole board after serving 30 years in prison, he would then be transferred to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. In the federal system, there is no parole, although those serving time can get 15 percent of their time knocked off for good behavior.
The investigation into Arbery’s killing had dragged on for months with no arrests being made. On May 5, 2020, however, a local radio station published Bryan’s cellphone video of the fatal shooting. It had been given the video by a lawyer for Greg McMichael, who had gotten a copy of it from Bryan.
Two days later, the GBI arrested the McMichaels. Two weeks after that, Bryan was also arrested for murder. They have not been released from custody since then.