Additional video shows Georgia jogger Ahmaud Arbery did nothing illegal, attorneys say

Additional video shows Georgia jogger Ahmaud Arbery did nothing illegal, attorneys say

Susan Miller and Grace Hauck
USA TODAY

Published 4: 54 PM EDT May 10, 2020

Surveillance video recorded minutes before the slaying of a jogger that has sent ripples of shock across the nation proves the Georgia man was not involved in a crime, attorneys for Ahmaud Arbery’s family say.  

An individual believed to be Arbery was seen at a property under construction for less than 3 minutes – and did nothing illegal – before being ambushed a short while later, lawyers said in a statement Saturday night.

The surveillance video was “consistent with the evidence already known to us” that Arbery made a brief stop at the site while out for a run and “engaged in no illegal activity,” they said. 

“Ahmaud did not take anything from the construction site. He did not cause any damage to the property,” the attorneys said. “He remained for a brief period of time and was not instructed by anyone to leave but rather left on his own accord to continue his jog. Ahmaud’s actions at this empty home under construction were in no way a felony under Georgia law.”

Arbery, 25, was killed Feb. 23 about two miles from his home in a neighborhood outside Brunswick. Two men, a father and son, were arrested last week on murder and aggravated assault charges. 

Client just a ‘witness’: Man who recorded Ahmaud Arbery’s shooting on video was just a witness, his lawyer says

The original decision not to make an arrest triggered a tsunami of outrage that Arbery was racially profiled after an initial video of the incident surfaced on social media in recent weeks.

Gregory McMichael told police he and his son, Travis, saw Arbery running and believed he was a burglary suspect. McMichael said the two armed themselves and pursued Arbery in their truck. The two told police Arbery attacked them after one of them got out of the truck with a shotgun. 

The new surveillance video confirmed that Arbery’s slaying “was not justified, and the actions of the men who pursued him and ambushed him were unjustified,” the lawyers said in the statement. “We reiterate, Ahmaud Arbery did not take part in ANY felony, had no illegal substances in his system, was not armed yet was shot three times with a shotgun at close range.”

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has said it was reviewing additional video footage and photographs as part of a probe into the incident.

Here’s the latest news:

Who has been arrested?

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation on Thursday arrested McMichael, 64, and his son, 34. The father and son were both charged with murder and aggravated assault.

Local officials and community leaders say a history of nepotism and privilege in the district attorney’s offices of Waycross and Brunswick allowed the suspects to remain free. 

Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson had previously recused herself from the case because Gregory McMichael was a retired investigator from her office. He is also a former Glynn County police officer. 

Who recorded the video?

The director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said it was looking into all people involved in the Arbery case, including the person who shot the video, William “Roddie” Bryan.

Bryan was not aware that he was under investigation until Friday morning when the GBI made the announcement, said attorney Kevin Gough, who is representing Bryan. 

Gough said his client was a witness to a crime and has cooperated with police.  

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“Roddie is a family man, NASCAR fan, and enjoys rock and roll. He is not now, and never has been, a ‘vigilante’,” Gough said in a statement. 

Gough, who told USA TODAY that Bryan has been fired from his job and has been receiving threats, has called on the GBI to clear his client’s name. 

Who released the original video?

Video of the incident was widely shared on social media before a criminal defense lawyer in Brunswick said last week that he was behind the release. Alan Tucker said he released the video to promote “absolute transparency.”

While his firm had not been retained to represent anyone in the case, Tucker said it may be. He also said he obtained the video from the person who recorded it.

What has been the reaction?

Arbery’s family and lawyers have condemned the killing.

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, said she thinks her son, a former high school football player, was simply jogging for exercise before he was killed.

“It’s so reminiscent of the motivations for lynchings,” attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the Arbery family, wrote in USA TODAY. 

What the community is like: What we know about community where Ahmaud Arbery was shot: 911 caller reported ‘black guy’ on property

On Sunday, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms also called the incident a “lynching” and blasted White House “rhetoric” for enabling racism.    

“With the rhetoric we hear coming out of the White House in so many ways, I think that many who are prone to being racist are given permission to do it in an overt way we otherwise would not see in 2020,” Bottoms told CNN.

President Donald Trump last week called the video “very disturbing.”

Civil rights groups including the ACLU, NAACP and Southern Poverty Law Center have also called for justice, likening the incident to the slaying of Trayvon Martin in which the killer was acquitted. 

What is the situation with protests?

Georgia officials said Sunday that they are investigating an online threat against people protesting Arbery’s killing.

The GBI said it “has been made aware of a Facebook post that contains a threat to future protests related to Ahmaud Arbery. We are actively investigating this situation and will provide pertinent updates as necessary.”

Several hundred people crowded outside the Glynn County Courthouse on Friday to mark what would have been Arbery’s 26th birthday,

Demonstrator Anthony Johnson said he sees echoes of Emmett Till, a black Chicago teen who was kidnapped in 1955 in Mississippi, lynched and dumped in a river after he was falsely accused of whistling at a white woman. Arbery “died because he was black like the rest of them did. For no reason,” Johnson said.

Runners around the World jogged 2.23 miles to pay tribute to Arbery on Friday. The 2.23 represented the date he was killed.

Will there be hate crime charges?

The McMichaels will not face hate crime charges in Georgia, state investigators say.

That’s because Georgia is one of four states in the U.S. that doesn’t have a hate crimes prevention law, according to the Department of Justice. If someone commits a crime motivated by bias, statewide authorities are unable to pursue additional charges or enhanced penalties for the perpetrator.

Contributing: The Associated Press 

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