On Sunday, February 23, 2019, a 25-year-old black man named Ahmaud Arbery went out jogging in the city of Brunswick, Glynn County, Georgia. He was shot and killed by two white men — a former police investigator and his 34-year-old son — who allegedly decided that Arbery fit some description of some burglar that had allegedly been terrorizing the neighborhood.
There was no punishment or penalty — or, frankly, much news coverage. The shooters, George and Travis McMichael, had connections with the local police and district attorneys office, and, according to their lawyer, were acting within their rights to carry firearms and perform a citizens’ arrest in the state of Georgia, thanks in part to Stand-Your-Ground laws that state, “A private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge.” The McMichaels claimed that Arbery attacked them after they chased him with guns, which, technically, made it self-defense; Arbery was not alive to refute this statement.
The District Attorney recused himself from the case over personal conflicts of interest with the McMichaels family, but not before publishing a letter that smeared the late Arbery as a violent, mentally ill criminal.
Two-and-a-half months later, dash cam footage has been made available, depicting a very limited perspective on the shooting. Those who support the legalized murder of unarmed black men who are jogging on a sunny Sunday afternoon will of course hyper-focus on the latter part of the video, which shows Arbery actively struggling against the older McMichaels, who carries a shotgun. Those who recognize that there is something inherently wrong with a justice system that legalizes the murder of an unarmed black man who is out jogging on a sunny Sunday afternoon will point to the earlier part of the video which clearly shows Arbery minding his own fucking business on a sunny Sunday afternoon jog.
It’s shameful, disappointing, and sadly unsurprising that this atrocity has gone under the radar for as long as it has. In the wake of the newly released footage, the lawyers representing Arbery’s family are demanding that the McMichaels are arrested and held until a Grand Jury, which was also just announced, can decide if the case is worthy enough to an actual trial.
I want to hope for justice. But I have very little faith in a Grand Jury system in a country built on racism that famously protects its police — even the former ones — at all costs. Because shooting and killing an unarmed black man out for a sunny Sunday afternoon jog may be an immoral and unjust act. But neither of those things have any bearing on the law.
Ahmaud Arbery: anger mounts over killing of black jogger caught on video [Khushbu Shah / The Guardian]
‘Ahmaud Arbery’s life matters’: Attorneys, rights leaders demand arrests in slaying of Georgia jogger [Nicquel Terry Ellis / USA Today]
Video posted online as DA says case of Georgia man who was chased and killed will go to grand jury [Angela Barajas and Amir Vera / CNN]
What We Know About the Shooting Death of Ahmaud Arbery [Richard Fausset / The New York Times]