Father, son charged with murder in Brunswick area shooting

Travis McMichael and his father, Greg McMichael, were charged with murder and aggravated assault.
Travis McMichael and his father, Greg McMichael, were charged with murder and aggravated assault.

A Brunswick father and son were charged with murder and aggravated assault Thursday night in the shooting death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery.

They were arrested one day after the GBI’s Kingsland branch opened its investigation into the shooting. A video showing Arbery’s death, posted online Tuesday morning, triggered a dizzying turn of events that increased public pressure to arrest Greg and Travis McMichael.

“It’s outrageous that it has taken more than two months for Ahmaud Arbery’s executioners to be arrested, but better late than never,” said attorney Benjamin Crump, who represents Arbery’s father. “This is the first step to justice. This murderous father and son duo took the law into their own hands.”

Crump notes that Arbery would’ve turned 26 on Friday.

» PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Ahmaud Arbery death

Video footage shows the fatal encounter between Greg McMichael, Travis McMichael and Ahmaud Arbery. The McMichaels say it was self-defense and had followed Arbery in their truck because they believed he was responsible for a string of burglaries in Satilla Shores. Arbery was unarmed and jogging in the Brunswick neighborhood in February.

The GBI said the McMichaels were taken into custody and booked into the Glynn County Jail. The agency plans a press conference Friday morning.

Shortly after the video, which shows Arbery’s Feb. 23 confrontation with the McMichaels, special prosecutor Tom Durden announced he would ask a grand jury to consider criminal charges against the McMichaels.

As outrage grew over the video, Gov. Brian Kemp weighed in, tweeting late Tuesday afternoon, “Georgians deserve answers. State law enforcement stands ready to ensure justice is served.”

Kemp said, if requested, the GBI would take over the investigation into the shooting. Within an hour, Durden accepted the offer and on Wednesday morning, agents hit the ground.

Arbery was shot three times by Travis McMichael, 34. He and his 64-year-old father had chased Arbery down in their pick-up truck, aided by a second driver, William Bryan.

Ironically, it was Bryan who filmed the video that ultimately led to the criminal charges being filed. Earlier Thursday, Brunswick attorney Alan Tucker put out a statement saying he provided the video to the Brunswick radio station that posted it.

“There had been very little information provided by the police department or the district attorney’s office, but there was entirely too much speculation, rumor, false narratives, and outright lies surrounding this event,” Tucker said. “I didn’t release this to ‘show that they did nothing wrong,’ as is being circulated.”

Tucker was widely rumored to be representing the McMichaels. He said he had not been retained by anyone involved in the case, but then said he might be.

The video shows Arbery running, at a jogger’s pace, along a street within Satilla Shores, a mostly white subdivision just south of Brunswick. He slows down when he sees Travis McMichael’s truck, parked in the middle of the road.

Arbery attempts to run past them but he is met by Travis McMichael. The two men begin to tussle.

A shot is fired. Autopsy results show a bullet pierced Arbery’s hand. As he and Travis McMichael continue to fight over the shotgun, two more bullets are fired at Arbery. He runs a few feet than collapses onto the asphalt, never to regain consciousness.

Though he didn't fire his weapon, Greg McMichael provided cover for his son. He told Glynn County police he recognized Arbery from surveillance video of a break-in at a Satilla Shores home. He did not mention that he had investigated Arbery on a 2018 shoplifting charge. Arbery's probation — for a gun-related incident while he was still in high school — was revoked.

Greg McMichael recently retired from the Brunswick Circuit District Attorney’s Office. Before that he was a Glynn County cop. Those conflicts led Brunswick DA Jackie Johnson to recuse herself from the investigation.

» AJC EXCLUSIVE: Father of Brunswick shooter previously investigated victim

The case was then assigned to Waycross Judicial Circuit DA George Barnhill. After watching the same video that, until Tuesday, had only been seen by those connected to the investigation, Barnhill, in a letter to a Glynn police captain, concluded the McMichaels acted in self-defense and should not be subject to criminal charges.

He recused himself after Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, found out Barnhill’s son worked in the DA’s office. She did not know until Thursday that the Waycross prosecutor’s son had worked on Ahmaud’s previous criminal case.

In a statement, the Attorney General’s Office said Barnhill should’ve never taken on the case.

“Based on the information provided by District Attorney Barnhill in that disqualification notification, information that was not provided to our office initially when the appointment was accepted by District Attorney Barnhill, it has become clear to our office that the appointment should not have been accepted, and it is appropriate that he is no longer involved in the case,” the statement read.

In this image from video posted on Twitter Tuesday, May 5, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery stumbles and falls to the ground after being shot as Travis McMichael stands by holding a shotgun in a neighborhood outside Brunswick, Ga., on Feb. 23, 2020.
In this image from video posted on Twitter Tuesday, May 5, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery stumbles and falls to the ground after being shot as Travis McMichael stands by holding a shotgun in a neighborhood outside Brunswick, Ga., on Feb. 23, 2020.

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