Justice served for Ahmaud Arbery almost 2 years later
At the age of 25, most people are pursuing careers, starting families, building their own life separate from their childhood. That freedom was not granted to Ahmaud Arbery. It was taken away by three white men when they murdered him at point-blank range on February 23, 2020 simply for jogging.
Arbery lived in Brunswick, Georgia and had a passion for jogging in his neighborhood. While completing his almost daily 2 mile jog to clear his head, he crossed paths with Gregory McMichael, William Bryan Jr., and Travis McMichael. The three white men followed Arbery in two trucks for up to 5 minutes and ultimately Travis shot at him 3 times at point-blank range with a shotgun, striking him twice in the chest and once in the wrist. Arbery was unarmed and killed instantly.
The McMichael’s say Arbery had matched a profile of a suspect in a series of local break-ins; police have no reports of any such break-ins in that area. On the day of the murder, none of the men were arrested, and continued to walk free for several months after.
The case did not gain much attention until a video of the murder was released. The video, recorded by William Bryan Jr, depicted a peaceful Arbery jogging around McMichael's parked truck in order to keep on the path. Both Travis and Gregory are seen holding their firearms when Arbery approaches. Then, Travis strikes him, and Arbery begins defending himself. Travis then pulls the trigger and viewers witness as Arbery drops to the floor, passing away. Travis’s father, Gregory McMichael, can be seen standing in the back of the truck, on a phone call. Once the first shot was fired, he pulled out a pistol and aimed it, although not shooting when he witnessed Arbery collapsing.
Once the public watched the video, within days the 3 men were arrested for hate crimes along with nine criminal counts. The question on everyone's mind: why hadn’t they been arrested or charged earlier?
About an hour after the murder, Gregory McMichael made a phone call to Jackie Jhonson, the local district attorney, describing, “My son and I have been involved in a shooting and I need some advice right away…”. The two worked together for years when he was chief investigator with the DA’s office for 23 years. Police reports show “Jhonson directed police not to arrest Travis McMichael that day”.
In September 2021, over a year later, Jhonson was arrested for violation of oath and obstruction of police in the case and indicted by a grand jury. There, at the Glynn County Jail, she was released within an hour and didn't have to pay any bonds. Immediately after her indictment, she recommended another district attorney to take the case, George Barnhill. It was later learned she had already met with him and discussed the case and ultimately convinced Barnhill the shooting was justified. He sent a letter to the police a week later, saying he thought as much as “We do not see grounds for an arrest of any of the three parties.”. Jhonson ran for re-election of District Attorney and lost the next month.
The public demanded justice for Arbery and started the hashtag, “#IRunWithMaud” highlighting the injustice of the case. A black man was killed for running, he was unarmed, not speaking or disrupting anyone, and only 25 years of age. Yet, his life was taken from him in a matter of seconds.
The trial concluded on November 24, 2021 with a jury of nine women and three men, all white except one black man. The trial had lasted eight days with twenty three witnesses taking the stands, including Travis McMichael. All three men were charged with the following crimes, Malice Murder, 4 counts of Felony Murder, 2 counts of Aggravated Assault, False Imprisonment, and Criminal attempt to commit a felony, and all plead not guilty. After 11 hours of deliberating, Travis McMichael was found guilty on all nine counts. Gregory McMichael was found guilty on eight of the nine counts, without being guilty on the count of Malice Murder. William Bryan Jr. was found guilty on six of nine counts, not being found guilty on Malice Murder, Felony Murder and Aggravated Assault. The men are awaiting trial in federal court for hate crimes.
Campaigns and protests continue as justice was brought to the community, hearts hurt over the death of a young black man, deprived of his life for no reason. Supporters hope to touch on other racially driven crimes in the future, ensuring what happened to Ahmaud never happens again.