Video posted online as DA says case of Georgia man who was chased and killed will go to grand jury

Ahmaud Arbery was fatally shot while running in a neighborhood after a former police officer and his son chased the 25-year-old man down, telling officers later that they thought he looked like the suspect in a series of recent break-ins in the area, authorities said.

Posted: May 6, 2020 6:20 AM
Updated: May 6, 2020 6:20 AM

The fatal shooting of a black man -- apparently recorded on video in February and posted online Tuesday by a local radio station host -- will go to a grand jury in coastal Georgia, according to a district attorney.

Elements of the disturbing video are consistent with a description of the shooting given to police by one of those involved in the incident.

Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was jogging in a neighborhood outside Brunswick on February 23 when a former police officer and his son chased him down, authorities said. According to a Glynn County Police report, Gregory McMichael later told officers that he thought Arbery looked like a person suspected in a series of recent break-ins in the area.

After they chased down Arbery, McMichael told police, Arbery and McMichael's son Travis struggled over his son's shotgun. McMichael said two shots were fired before Arbery fell to the street, the report said.

In a letter to police, George Barnhill , one of the district attorneys who has recused himself from the case and who saw the autopsy report, wrote that Arbery sustained three wounds during the struggle for the gun.

Tom Durden, the district attorney for the Atlantic Judicial Circuit, wrote in a news release obtained by CNN on Tuesday that he expects to present the case to the next available grand jury in Glynn County to consider whether charges are merited for those involved in Arbery's death.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, courts are currently prohibited from empaneling grand juries.

Durden did not return CNN's calls for comment, but the local branch of the NAACP provided CNN with the document -- labeled as a press release -- which matches a statement Durden gave to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

S. Lee Merritt, an attorney for the Arbery family, said in a statement that the two men involved in the chase "must be taken into custody pending their indictment."

CNN's attempts to reach the McMichaels on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Gov. Brian Kemp said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has offered resources to Durden for his investigation. "Georgians deserve answers," Kemp tweeted.

Kemp also retweeted the GBI's post that Durden "formally requested the GBI to investigate the death of Ahmaud Arbery."

State Attorney General Chris Carr said he was "deeply concerned" by the video and news reports.

Wanda Cooper, Arbery's mother, told CNN on Sunday that when police notified her of her son's death, she was told her son was involved in a burglary and that there was a confrontation between her son and the homeowner and a struggle over a gun.

"He was not armed," Cooper said. She said she never worried about him jogging because she said he wasn't bothering anyone.

Video shows shooting

The 36-second video, which has been deleted from the radio station website, was taken by a person in a vehicle that pulls up behind a pickup truck that has stopped in the road. CNN has not independently verified who recorded the video.

The recording has sound, but yelling in the video is unintelligible. It is not clear what happened immediately before or after the confrontation.

The video begins with a man in a white T-shirt jogging down the middle of street toward a pickup. One man is in the bed of the truck and the other is standing near the driver's side door.

As the man in the T-shirt approaches, he goes around the pickup on the right side, and just as he's passing the front of the vehicle, he makes a left and begins tussling with the man with the shotgun.

A shot goes off, and the two disappear off the left side of the screen as the man who was running appears to throw a punch. The man standing in the back of the truck takes out a handgun but doesn't fire.

A second shot is heard as the men who are fighting are off-screen. As the men come back into view, both are still grabbing the shotgun.

The man in the T-shirt appears to throw a right-handed punch at the man's head as a third gunshot is heard.

The man who was shot recoils, as blood appears on his T-shirt below his left ribcage. He stumbles and falls in the middle of the two-lane road.

The man with the shotgun walks away as the other man runs toward them with his gun in his right hand.

Prosecutors recused themselves

There have been no charges against the father and son involved in the incident.

CNN had previously reached out to Gregory McMichael, who is also a former investigator for the district attorney in the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, for comment.

McMichael said he won't be commenting because he is under investigation.

"This is an ongoing investigation," the Glynn County Police Department said in a statement April 28, adding that it "continues to gather and provide information to the District Attorney's Office that the case has been assigned to."

Two other district attorneys had recused themselves over possible conflicts of interest, one of whom wrote that Travis McMichael acted out of self-defense and their actions fell within Georgia's citizen arrest laws.

Merritt, the family's attorney, told CNN on Sunday, "The decision to rely on the citizen's arrest statute is really a recent invention, prior to that they just simply said it was self-defense." Merritt says now the men are trying to use the law to say they were trying to stop a crime.

"According to that law, you actually have to be observing the crime or be in the immediate knowledge of the crime," Merritt said. "The only thing they have ever said is ... that Ahmaud stopped by a house that was under construction and he looked through the window. We don't know if that happened or not, but even if that did happen that is not a felony that would invoke the citizen's arrest statute that would make this allowable."

Father gave his version of events

After the shooting, Gregory McMichael told police he saw the same man "the other night" and that he stuck his hand down his pants on that occasion, leading McMichael to believe he was armed, according to a Glynn County Police report.

After seeing Arbery jogging, McMichael then alerted Travis, 34, according to the police report.

"Travis, the guy is running down the street, let's go," McMichael said, according to the report.

The two grabbed a shotgun and a pistol and followed Arbery in their truck, police said. Travis McMichael, the driver, followed Arbery and then attempted to cut him off, the report said. Arbery turned around and began running in the opposite direction, the police report said.

They chased Arbery to a nearby intersection, where they caught up to him, the report said.

"Stop, stop, we want to talk to you," Gregory McMichael shouted at Arbery, according to the police report.

Travis McMichael then exited truck with the shotgun, the police report said. His father told officers Arbery "violently attacked" his son, the report said, and they struggled over the gun. Travis McMichael fired two shots, the report said, and Arbery fell.

At best, the men had the authority to follow Arbery and send law enforcement to that location, Merritt said. The 911 calls show the call taker was asking the men what Arbery is doing that was of criminal concern, Merritt said.

"They didn't give any answer for that, they said, 'He's a black man running down our road,'" Merritt said.

Defenders of the men are pointing to a shoplifting conviction in Arbery's past.

"The reference to ... alleged conduct from high school or shoplifting is absurd and has nothing to do with his murder," Merritt said.

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