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Two white men who chased down and killed Ahmaud Arbery, a young black man running through their Georgia neighborhood, were just arrested and charged with murder, more than two months after his death.
Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son, Travis McMichael, 34, were taken into custody and charged with murder and aggravated assault, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced Thursday, just hours before what would have been Arbery’s 26th birthday. They were booked in the Glynn County Jail.
Shortly after Arbery’s death on Feb. 23, a local district attorney advised police that the state didn’t have enough evidence to arrest the McMichaels and cited Georgia's “citizen’s arrest” statute, which allows people to detain someone in the absence of law enforcement. According to a police report, the McMichaels thought Arbery was a burglary suspect, despite his family's repeated insistence that he was innocent and the killing was racially motivated.
That district attorney, George Barnhill, later recused himself from the case, due to potential conflicts of interest arising from the elder McMichael’s long career in county law enforcement. Another prosecutor, Tom Durden, took on the case and announced earlier this week that a grand jury was set to weigh the evidence — including video of the moment Arbery died.
When Gregory McMichael spotted Arbery running down his road Feb. 23, he called out to his son and the two men hopped in a truck to pursue the 25-year-old, according to the police report. Armed with a shotgun and a pistol, they followed him as he ran and eventually blocked his path. Video of the encounter that circulated online earlier this week showed Arbery running around the vehicle before he and Travis struggled for the shotgun. Three shots rang out, and Arbery crumpled to the ground.
Attorneys for Arbery’s parents have argued that police have been in possession of the video for months, and that local police should’ve arrested the McMichaels sooner. After the video of Arbery’s killing went viral earlier this week, however, they heightened demands to arrest the two men immediately.
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, said she wouldn’t view the video because it’s too painful.
"I saw my son come into the world," Jones told reporters Wednesday. "And seeing him leave the world, it's not something that I'll want to see ever.
Cover image: Photo of Ahmaud Arbery courtesy of I RUN WITH MAUD Facebook group