State Watch

Justice Dept. reviewing if hate crime charges should be filed in Ahmaud Arbery shooting

The Department of Justice (DOJ) said Monday that it is reviewing all of the evidence in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery and considering whether federal hate crime charges are warranted.

“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 fully to support and participate in the state investigation,” DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement. “We are assessing all of the evidence to determine whether federal hate crimes charges are appropriate.” 

Kupec added that officials are also considering the Georgia attorney general’s request for the department to investigate the handling of the case. She said that Justice Department is asking the state to forward any information it has about the handling of the incident to federal authorities. 

Arbery, a 25-year-old African American man, was shot and killed in Brunswick, Ga., a coastal town about 300 miles outside of Atlanta, on Feb. 23. No arrests were made until last week, after video surfaced showing a deadly confrontation between Arbery and two men.

Footage showed a white pickup blocking Arbery’s path as he appeared to run through the neighborhood. The recording, which captured multiple gunshots as well as struggle between Arbery and another man, quickly sparked outrage from the public and demands from state and federal lawmakers for a thorough investigation. 

Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34, were arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault last Thursday.

At the time of the incident, the two men told authorities that Arbery looked like a man linked to a series of break-ins in the neighborhood, according to a Glynn County Police report. Gregory McMichael claimed that his son shot Arbery after being attacked by the victim, the police report said. 

Two prosecutors recused themselves from the case focused on Arbery’s death due to potential conflicts of interest. Gregory McMichael worked previously as an investigator for a prosecutor in Brunswick.

George Barnhill, one of the prosecutors who initially handled the case, in early April said that there was “insufficient probable cause to issue arrest warrants.” He also stated that the McMichaels’ had “solid firsthand probable cause” to use their citizen’s arrest rights.

Tom Durden of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit became the third prosecutor to take up Arbery’s case. After video was released of the incident, he said that he would present the evidence to a grand jury.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr (R) on Sunday called on the DOJ to launch an investigation into how the Arbery shooting was handled. Carr asked the department to probe “communications and discussions by and between the Office of the District Attorney of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit and the Office of the District Attorney of the Waycross Judicial Circuit related to this case,” according to a news release detailing the request. 

Carr’s office said that it would provide its “entire file regarding the appointment process for the prosecutors” to the Justice Department. 

S. Lee Merritt, Benjamin Crump and L. Chris Stewart, attorneys representing Arbery’s family, applauded Carr’s request on Sunday, saying that “there are far too many questions about how this case was handled and why it took 74 days for two killers to be arrested and charged in Arbery’s death.” 

“We will continue to assess all information, and we will take any appropriate action that is warranted by the facts and the law,” Kupec added Monday. 

UPDATED 1:32 p.m.

Tags Chris Stewart

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