Three men indicted on hate crime and kidnapping charges in connection to Ahmaud Arbery's death, federal prosecutors say

Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was out for a jog near Brunswick, Georgia, on February 23, 2020, when he was chased down in a truck by three men and fatally shot. Two of the three men -- Gregory and Travis McMichael -- claimed to be conducting a citizen's arrest and acted in self-defense.

Posted: Apr 28, 2021 9:10 PM
Updated: Apr 29, 2021 8:30 AM

Federal prosecutors indicted the three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery on hate crime and attempted kidnapping charges, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was out for a jog near Brunswick, Georgia, on February 23, 2020, when he was chased down in a truck by three men and fatally shot. Two of the three men -- Gregory and Travis McMichael -- claimed to be conducting a citizen's arrest and acted in self-defense.

A third man, William 'Roddie' Bryan Jr., who recorded video of Arbery's death, allegedly hit Arbery with his truck after he joined the McMichaels in the chase.

All three men were charged with one count of interference with rights and with one count of attempted kidnapping, according to a news release from the Justice Department.

Travis McMichael and his father, Gregory McMichael, were charged with one count each of using, carrying, and brandishing (in Travis's case discharging) a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.

'It's one step closer to justice,' Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery's mother, told CNN. 'They did the investigation properly and they came out with those indictments. So, my family and I were pleased.'

Cooper-Jones, who was notified earlier in the day by federal investigators of the forthcoming federal charges, told CNN that the hate crime charges on a federal level were 'huge.'

Arbery family attorney Ben Crump said the indictments were 'yet another step in the right direction.'

'This is an important milestone in America's uphill march toward racial justice, and we applaud the Justice Department for treating this heinous act for what it is -- a purely evil, racially motivated hate crime,' Crump's statement read.

Jason Sheffield and Robert Rubin, attorneys for Travis McMichael, said in a statement 'we are deeply disappointed that the Justice Department bought the false narrative that the media and state prosecutors have promulgated.'

Bryan's attorney, Kevin Gough, also expressed disappointment.

'Roddie Bryan has committed no crime. We look forward to a fair and speedy trial, and to the day when Mr. Bryan is released and reunited with his family,' Gough said in a statement.

CNN has reached out to the legal counsel for Gregory McMichael.

Arbery's death, along with those of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, sparked a summer of protests and calls for police reform in the US. In Georgia, Arbery's death resulted in the overhaul of the state's citizen's arrest law.

All 3 men used force to interfere with Arbery's rights

Federal prosecutors said all three men 'used force and threats of force to intimidate and interfere with Arbery's right to use a public street because of his race.'

While Arbery was jogging, prosecutors said the McMichaels 'armed themselves with firearms, got into a truck, and chased Arbery through the public streets of the neighborhood while yelling at him, using their truck to cut off his route, and threatening him with firearms.'

Bryan also joined the chase and cut off Arbery's route with his truck, prosecutors said.

'All three defendants attempted to unlawfully seize and confine Arbery by chasing after him in their trucks in an attempt to restrain him, restrict his free movement, corral and detain him against his will, and prevent his escape,' the Justice Department release read.

Video footage of the fatal shooting, recorded by Bryan, shows Arbery and Travis McMichael tussling before three gunshots are heard. Blood appears on Arbery's T-shirt below his left ribcage. He stumbles and falls in the middle of the two-lane road.

Prosecutors said Travis McMichael 'used, carried, brandished and discharged' a Remington shotgun, while his father 'used, carried and brandished' a .357 Magnum revolver.

In separate state proceedings, Gregory and Travis McMichael pleaded not guilty to malice and felony murder charges, and counts of aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

Bryan pleaded not guilty to charges of criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment and felony murder.

Throughout the ongoing pretrial hearings, counsel for the McMichaels has maintained their clients thought Arbery was a burglary suspect when they pursued him.

No trial date has been set by Georgia prosecutors.

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