Ahmaud Arbery Shooting: 'Clear' Evidence Warranted Murder Charges, State Investigators Say

Arrests were made in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery after state investigators joined the case.
Gregory McMichael, left, and his son Travis, were arrested late Thursday. Glynn County Jail

State investigators said Friday they found "clear evidence" to issue murder warrants in the Georgia shooting death of 25-year-old black jogger Ahmaud Arbery, hours after joining the investigation into his two-month-old killing. 

"Probable cause was clear to our agents pretty quickly," said the director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Vic Reynolds, at a press conference. "I'm very comfortable in telling you there's more than sufficient probable cause in charging felony murder."

Two white men, Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son, Travis, 34, were arrested Thursday night and charged with murder and aggravated assault in Arbery's Feb. 23 death. Public pressure had mounted for arrests in the killing after graphic video emerged earlier this week of his killing.

Arbery was unarmed and his family said he was doing "what he loved," when he went for a run on a Sunday afternoon.

Reynolds called case evidence, including the video, "extremely upsetting." He declined to answer questions about why he thought charges hadn't been previously filed.

"I think you have to remember our role is to do our best to remove our emotions from a case and look at facts," Reynolds said. "But certainly when you see that, you become pretty enraged in watching it," he said of the footage.

Video shows Arbery running on a tree-lined street in a coastal enclave near Brunswick. He approaches a white pick-up, and apparently tries to run around it, when shots are heard.

According to an incident report filed by Glynn County police, Arbery was shot after the McMichaels spotted him in their neighborhood and thought he matched the description of someone caught on a security camera committing recent break-ins in the area.

They armed themselves with guns before getting in a truck to pursue him, according to the report. The elder McMichael said the jogger "violently" attacked his son, and the two fought over Travis' shotgun, with Travis shooting Arbery twice, the report said. Neither man has commented to news media about the shooting.

Both are currently being held at the Glynn County Jail and there was no immediate information on whether they were represented by an attorney.

The video prompted public outrage, with politicians, celebrities and Arbery's family demanding the arrests of the McMichaels.

President Trump called the video "very disturbing" in an interview Friday on Fox News Channel.

"I looked at a picture of that young man," Trump said. "That looks like a really good young guy, and it's a very disturbing situation to me. And I just, my heart goes out to the parents, and the family, and the friends."

Arbery's friends and family welcomed news of the arrests but expressed frustration at the wait.

"This should have occurred the day it happened," Akeem Baker, a friend of Arbery, told The Associated Press. "There's no way without the video this would have occurred. I'm just glad the light's shining very bright on this situation."

Runners across the country announced plans to run 2.3 miles Friday in honor of Arbery, on what would have been his 26th birthday.

Ahmaud Arbery would have turned 26 on Friday.
Twitter

Two previous prosecutors had recused themselves from pursuing the Feb. 23 shooting, citing conflict of interests because the elder McMichael was a former law enforcement officer who worked for the district attorney's office for two decades.

The state bureau was asked to step in late Tuesday by Tom Durden of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit, the third prosecutor in the ongoing case.

In recent days, accusations of racial bias and descriptions of Ahmed's killing as a "lynching" flooded social media.

Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley took to Twitter, demanding justice. “I’ve struggled for words to describe the pain my husband & I feel reading about the lynching of #AhmaudArbery,” tweeted Pressley, who is the first black woman elected to represent the state in Congress. “Black while walking. Black while eating. Black while jogging ... we need justice for his family now.”

Sports star LeBron James also joined a chorus of public figures expressing outrage over the shooting. "We're literally hunted EVERYDAY/EVERYTIME we step foot outside the comfort of our homes! Can't even go for a damn jog man! Like WTF man are you kidding me?!?!?!?!?!? No man fr ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!!! I'm sorry Ahmaud (Rest In Paradise) and my prayers and blessings sent to the... heavens above to your family," James tweeted Wednesday. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is the presumptive Democratic nominee for the 2020 presidential election, alled Arbery's death a murder during an online round table meeting on Thursday, saying watching the video was like seeing Arbery "lynched before our very eyes."

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