DOJ considering whether to pursue hate crime charges in killing of Ahmaud Arbery
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is considering whether to pursue federal hate crime charges in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, the black man investigators say was shot by a white father and son as he ran through a Georgia neighborhood.
“The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia have been supporting and will continue to fully support and participate in the state investigation,” a statement from DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said Monday.
Kupec continued: “We are assessing all of the evidence to determine whether federal hate crimes charges are appropriate. In addition, we are considering the request of the Attorney General of Georgia and have asked that he forward to federal authorities any information that he has about the handling of the investigation. We will continue to assess all information, and we will take any appropriate action that is warranted by the facts and the law.”
The DOJ statement comes a day after Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr asked the DOJ to conduct an investigation into how the case was handled by Georgia law enforcement. The case has seen two prosecutors replaced after potential conflicts of interest arose and it took more than two months after the fatal shooting for law enforcement to arrest the father and son.
In this Tuesday, May 5, 2020, photo, a crowd marches through a neighborhood in Brunswick, Ga. They were demanding answers in the death of Ahmaud Arbery. An outcry over the Feb. 23 shooting of Arbery has intensified after cellphone video that lawyers for Arbery’s family say shows him being shot to death by two white men. (Bobby Haven/The Brunswick News via AP)
“We are committed to a complete and transparent review of how the Ahmaud Arbery case was handled from the outset,” Carr said in a statement. “The family, the community and the state of Georgia deserve answers, and we will work with others in law enforcement at the state and federal level to find those answers.”
A video that appeared to show the shooting last week elevated the case to a national issue, with sports stars, politicians and others weighing in on the killing and the fact that the two suspects, Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis, had not yet been arrested. The pair were eventually arrested on Thursday night by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. They were charged with murder and aggravated assault.
A police report on the incident, obtained by the New York Times, indicates that Gregory McMichael told officers there had been a string of break-ins in the neighborhood, which had been caught on surveillance cameras, and that McMichael claimed Arbery was a suspect. McMichael also claimed, according to the police report, that he saw this individual “hauling ass” on the street.
McMichael and his son then, according to the report, armed themselves and tracked down Arbery on the road before saying “stop, stop, we want to talk to you.” Gregory claimed to police that Arbery attempted to attack Travis after Travis exited the truck with a shotgun, a confrontation that led to two shots being fired.
The video, however, does not appear to support that Arbery attacked Travis McMichael, although the beginning of the physical confrontation between the two men is obscured by the truck the father and son were driving.
Another video emerged on Sunday purporting to show Arbery at a construction site shortly before his death.
Lawyers for Arbery’s family said the video bolstered their position that Arbery did nothing wrong. Under Georgia law, someone who isn’t a sworn police officer can arrest and detain another person only if a felony is committed in the presence of the arresting citizen.
“Ahmaud’s actions at this empty home under construction were in no way a felony under Georgia law,” the lawyers wrote in a social media post. “This video confirms that Mr. Arbery’s murder was not justified and the actions of the men who pursued him and ambushed him were unjustified.”
Fox News’ Frank Miles and Michael Ruiz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.