“We are committed to a full and transparent review of how the Ahmaud Arbery case was handled from the start,” said Attorney General Chris Carr in a statement. “The family, community and state of Georgia deserve answers, and we will work with other state and federal law enforcement officials to find those answers. “
Carr’s request to the DOJ includes an investigation into “communications and discussions” between the first two district attorneys assigned to the case, who have since recused themselves.
The lethal shooting of Arbery, 25, on February 23, has caused widespread scandal in the past few days after the release of a video that appeared to show the murderous confrontation. The anger was compounded by the fact that the suspects in the case, who are white, had not been arrested more than two months after the death of Arbery, a black man.
The suspects, Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34, were arrested on May 7 and charged with murder and aggravated assault. CNN’s attempts to contact them for comment were unsuccessful.
The case was brought before three prosecutors
Since the shooting, the case has landed on the desk of three prosecutors. The first two have recused themselves because of their ties to Gregory McMichael.
Last week, the current attorney, Atlantic District Attorney Tom Durden, said he would take the case to a grand jury after the restrictions on coronaviruses were lifted.
The first prosecutor, Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson, recused herself, citing Gregory McMichael’s position as a former investigator in the office. She denied allegations by local authorities that she told the police not to make an arrest.
A second prosecutor, Waycross District Circuit District Attorney, George Barnhill, recused himself because his son worked in the DA Judicial Circuit office and previously worked with Gregory McMichael in a previous Arbery lawsuit, a- he wrote in a letter to Carr’s office on April 7.
In a separate letter to the police, Barnhill wrote that he believed the McMichaels were entitled to execute the arrest of a citizen of Arbery, adding that Travis McMichael would have been allowed to use “lethal force” to protect themselves while he and Arbery wrestled shotgun.
Carr’s office said Sunday that at the time Barnhill was appointed to the case, neither his office nor the Attorney General of Brunswick informed the state attorney general that Barnhill “had already played a role in the case by examining the evidence and informing the Glynn County Police Department to make arrests in the case. “
When Barnhill wrote to the Attorney General’s office on April 7 to recuse himself, Barnhill said he and Johnson, the Brunswick district attorney, had learned of the connection between Barnhill’s son and McMichael several weeks earlier.
Barnhill’s April 7 letter did not provide a reason for the delay in informing the state’s attorney general of the connection, Carr’s office said. The letter also did not mention that Barnhill had previously delivered a letter to the police in which Barnhill indicated that he saw no reason for the arrest.
Video appears to show Arbery shortly before killing
Earlier on Sunday, a construction site surveillance video appeared to show Ahmaud Arbery shortly before he was shot dead while running in a neighborhood in southern Georgia in February.
The video, obtained by the owner’s CNN WJXT affiliate, shows a man in a white T-shirt entering a house under construction. Leaves are scattered on the ground among heaps of wood and other building materials.
Lee Merritt, a lawyer for Arbery’s family, said in a statement that his office has reviewed the video and believes it is showing Arbery.
“This video is consistent with the evidence we already know,” said Merritt in a statement, with co-counsel Benjamin Crump and L. Chris Stewart. “Ahmaud Arbery had gone jogging. He stopped at a property under construction where he did not engage in any illegal activity and only stayed for a short time. “
“Ahmaud took nothing from the site,” he added. “He did not cause any damage to the property. “
did not confirm to CNN if the surveillance footage was part of the investigation.
Even though Arbery entered the construction site, his family’s lawyers said there was no reason to kill him and kill him.
“Ahmaud’s actions in this empty house under construction were by no means a crime under Georgian law,” the statement said. “This video confirms that Mr. Arbery’s murder was not warranted and the actions of the men who chased and ambushed him were unjustified. “
“We reiterate,” added the statement, “Ahmaud Arbery did not participate in any crime, had no illegal substances in his system, was unarmed but was shot three times at close range.”
“It was a lynching”
In the video that appeared to show the deadly confrontation, Arbery is seen jogging along a road outside Brunswick, Georgia – as he has often done, according to those who knew the former high school footballer – when encountered by two men in a pickup truck.
Arbery and one of the men are fighting over a shotgun when gunshots are heard. Arbery falls on the road.
Gregory McMichael told police that he and his son had chased Arbery because they thought he looked like a suspect in recent break and enters in the neighborhood, according to a police report.
The video was filmed by a man named William “Roddie” Bryan, said his lawyer, Kevin Gough. Although the police report quotes Gregory McMichael as saying that Bryan tried to “block” Arbery, Gough told CNN that his client was not working with the McMichaels on the day of the shooting. Any implication that his client was a vigilante was inaccurate, said Gough.
Under Georgian law, a person can arrest a citizen only if he has witnessed a crime, if that crime is a crime and if the suspect flees.
Although McMichael cited previous break and enters as one of the reasons he and his son chased Arbery, a lieutenant in the Glynn County police told CNN that only one car burglary had been reported in the area during seven weeks before the shooting, when a firearm was reported. stolen from an unlocked vehicle outside of the McMichaels’ home.
A number of politicians, activists and celebrities have weighed in on the murder in recent days, including Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who told CNN that without the video, she didn’t think there was would have had arrests.
“I think if we hadn’t seen this video, I don’t think they would be charged,” Bottoms told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” on Sunday. “And it is heartbreaking that it is 2020 and it was a lynching of an African American man. “
Eliott C. McLaughlin and Martin Savidge of CNN contributed to this report.