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SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Georgia authorities on Thursday arrested a white father and son and charged them with murder in February’s shooting death of a black man they pursued in a truck after spotting him in their neighborhood had seen running.
The charges came more than two months after 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery was killed on a residential street outside the port city of Braunschweig. National outrage over the case swelled this week after cellphone video appeared to show the shooting.
Gregory McMichael told police after the February shooting that he and his son were pursuing Arbery because they suspected him of being a burglar. Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, said she believes her son, a former football player, was jogging in the Satilla Shores neighborhood before he was killed on a Sunday afternoon.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation made the arrests the day after it began its own investigation at the request of an outside prosecutor. The agency said in a press release that Gregory McMichael, 64, and his 34-year-old son, Travis McMichael, have both been jailed for murder and aggravated assault.
The GBI press release said the McMichaels “confronted Arbery with two guns. During the encounter, Travis McMichael shot and killed Arbery.” Further details were not immediately released.
It was not immediately known if any of the McMichaels had an attorney who could comment on the charges.
Gregory McMichael served as investigator for Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson. He retired last year. The connection prompted Johnson to withdraw from the case.
At a news conference ahead of Thursday’s announcement of the arrests, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp told reporters he was confident state investigators would “find the truth.”
“Earlier this week I was looking at the video showing Mr. Arbery’s last moments alive,” Kemp said at a news conference in Atlanta. “I can tell you it’s absolutely awful and Georgians deserve answers.”
Gregory McMichael told police he suspects the runner was the same man who was caught on security cameras committing a burglary. He and his adult son, Travis McMichael, grabbed guns and began the truck chase.
The video shows a black man jogging on the left side of the street. A truck is parked on the street in front of him. One of the white men is in the back of the pickup truck. The other is standing next to the open driver’s door.
The runner crosses the road to pass the passenger-side pickup truck, then crosses back in front of the truck. A gunshot rings out, and video shows the runner arguing with a man in the street over what appears to be a shotgun or rifle. A second shot is heard and the runner hits the man. A third shot is fired at close range. The runner staggers a few feet and falls face down.
Braunschweig defender Alan Tucker on Thursday identified himself as the person who shared the video with the radio station. In a statement, Tucker said he does not represent anyone involved in the case. He said he posted the video “because my community has been torn apart by false accusations and assumptions.”
Tucker didn’t say how he got the video. He did not immediately respond to a phone message or email.
Outcry over the killing reached the White House, where President Donald Trump offered his condolences to Arbery’s family on Thursday.
“It’s a very sad thing,” Trump said in the Oval Office, “but I’ll have a full report tonight.”
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has called Arbery’s death a “murder.” During an online roundtable Thursday, Biden likened the video to seeing Arbery “lynched before our eyes.”
The outside prosecutor overseeing the case, Tom Durden, had said Monday he wanted a grand jury to decide whether the charges are merited. With Georgia courts still largely closed due to the coronavirus, that could happen as early as mid-June at the earliest.
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