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Men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery thought he was a burglary suspect. But no burglaries were reported in the month before the shooting

CNN's Chris Cuomo speaks with Jasmine Arbery, the sister of Ahmaud Arbery, after two men involved in his fatal shooting near Brunswick, Georgia, have been arrested and face murder and aggravated assault charges, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Posted: May 8, 2020 2:41 PM
Updated: May 8, 2020 2:41 PM

The two white men arrested Thursday evening in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery told police they believed he was a suspect in a series of break-ins. But no such string of crimes was reported in the weeks preceding the shooting, a police lieutenant told CNN.

Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son, 34-year-old Travis McMichael face charges of murder and aggravated assault in Arbery's death, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. They were arrested two days after a 36-second video that appears to show the deadly confrontation surfaced online, sparking outrage and calls for justice in the south Georgia community.

After the killing, according to a Glynn County Police report, Gregory McMichael told police he thought Arbery, 25, looked like a person suspected in a series of a recent break-ins in the Satilla Shores neighborhood.

But according to Glynn County Police Lt. Cheri Bashlor, just one automobile burglary in the neighborhood was reported when a 9 mm pistol was stolen January 1 from an unlocked truck outside the McMichaels' home.

Arbery, who is black, was jogging outside Brunswick, Georgia, on February 23 when Gregory McMichael, a former police officer, and his son chased him down, authorities said. Arbery and Travis McMichael struggled over the latter's shotgun. Gregory McMichael told police his son shot Arbery after Arbery attacked him, per the police report.

"I just want justice for my son," Ahmaud's father, Marcus Arbery Sr., told CNN Friday, on what would have been his son's 26th birthday. "I just want them to pay the price for the crime they did."

Marcus Arbery Sr. likened his son's killing to a modern day lynching.

"Anytime you pursue a young man, go jump in a truck with shotguns and a pistol ... and you follow him and slaughter him like that, that's lynching," he said.

The McMichaels will not face hate crime charges in the killing, GBI Director Vic Reynolds said Friday, because Georgia is one of a handful of states that does not have a hate crime statute.

Asked why the GBI quickly arrested the McMichaels when local authorities did not for ten weeks, GBI Director Vic Reynolds said he couldn't speak to the actions of other agencies.

But, he added, "I'm very comfortable in telling you that there's more than sufficient probable cause in this case for felony murder."

CNN's attempts to reach Travis McMichael this week were unsuccessful. Gregory McMichael has declined to comment because he's under investigation. It's unclear when the two men will appear in court.

Three shots heard in video of confrontation

The video that appears to show Arbery's killing was released by a local radio personality on Tuesday. CNN has not verified who recorded the video -- taken by someone in a vehicle that pulls up behind a pickup truck stopped in the road -- but it captured events that match numerous accounts of the shooting.

The footage begins with Arbery jogging down the middle of a street toward a pickup truck stopped in the road. Gregory McMichael is in the bed of the truck, while his son is standing near the driver's side door.

As Arbery approaches, he goes around the pickup truck on the right side, and just as he's passing the front of the vehicle, he makes a left and begins tussling with Travis McMichael.

A shot goes off, and the two disappear off the left side of the screen as Arbery appears to throw a punch. Gregory McMichael takes out a handgun but doesn't fire.

A second shot is heard as the men are struggling off-camera. As they come back into view, both are still grappling with the shotgun.

Arbery appears to throw a right-handed punch at Travis McMichael's head as a third gunshot is heard.

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

Travis McMichael walks away as his father runs toward them with his gun in his right hand.

GBI Director Reynolds on Friday said the footage was a "very important piece of evidence."

Asked about whether there will be additional arrests, Reynolds told reporters the investigation is active and investigators are "going to go wherever the facts take them. If, in fact, the facts take them to make another arrest in this case, then they will do that."

"We investigate everybody involved in the case," he said, "including the individual who shot the video."

On Friday, speaking by phone to Fox News, President Donald Trump said the footage was "very disturbing."

"I will say that looks like a really good young guy," Trump said of Arbery. "It's a very disturbing situation to me and my heart goes out to the parents and the family and the friends, but yet we have to take it, law enforcement is going to take a look at it."

Outrage builds as prosecutors recuse

Two district attorneys previously recused themselves from the case, though one said he believed the McMichaels had exercised their citizen's arrest rights.

The owner of a nearby home that's under construction, listed as a victim in the police report, said his surveillance system captured at least four short clips of a man who appeared to be Arbery "coming onto his property" on February 23.

The man declined to share the clips with CNN and spoke on the condition of anonymity because he says he's receiving death threats. Asked whether they showed the man stealing or committing any other crime, he said they show him "trespassing."

Police have yet to clarify whether Arbery is accused of any crime at the unfinished home.

Arbery family attorney S. Lee Merritt said Arbery did nothing that would warrant a citizen's arrest. If Arbery went by a house under construction, Merritt said Thursday, it was, at most, trespassing.

Those who knew Arbery said the former high school football speedster often jogged through the neighborhoods southwest of Brunswick.

A third DA, Tom Durden of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit, said this week he would present the evidence to a grand jury, once the coronavirus restrictions were lifted.

The GBI took over the case Tuesday night at Durden's request, by which point outrage over the fact the McMichaels had not been arrested had reached a fever pitch.

A wide swath of politicians, activists and celebrities have weighed in on the incident in recent days, including Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who called the footage "absolutely horrific" and said Georgians "deserve answers."

Despite the coronavirus, demonstrators on Tuesday converged on the Satilla Shores neighborhood where Arbery was killed, demanding justice.

"You want to chase somebody down? We got over 100 bodies out here. Chase us down," said a man leading the demonstration. "We're a community. We're not going to keep allowing this to go on in Glynn County."

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