GBI investigating, prosecutor to impanel grand jury in south Georgia jogger shooting

Ahmaud Arbery ( Photo provided by family members )

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said late Tuesday it has been asked to investigate the death of a man shot after a pursuit by armed men who later told police they suspected him of being a burglar. This after a Georgia prosecutor asked by the Georgia Attorney General's Office to handle the case said earlier in the day he will present the case to a grand jury as soon as possible to see if criminal charges are warranted.

Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was killed Feb. 23 in a neighborhood outside the coastal port city of Brunswick. No one has been arrested or charged in the case, prompting an outcry from the local NAACP and others. Arbery was black and the men who chased him are white.

Tom Durden, an outside prosecutor assigned to examine the case, said he plans to have a grand jury hear the evidence in the shooting. That won’t happen for more than a month, as Georgia courts remain largely closed because of the coronavirus until at least June 13.

“I am of the opinion that the case should be presented to the grand jury of Glynn County for consideration of criminal charges against those involved in the death of Mr. Arbery,” Durden said in a statement Tuesday.

Civil rights group demands federal probe of Georgia killing

Reached by phone by the Associated Press on Tuesday, Durden said no arrests have been made in connection with the shooting. He declined to say what charges he would have a grand jury consider.

The full statement from Durden reads:

“On or about April 13, 2020, I received a phone call from the Attorney General's Office advising me of a death investigation in Glynn County. I was advised that the investigation involved the death of Ahmaud Arbery and the District Attorneys for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit and the Waycross Judicial Circuit had recused themselves from the case. Having neither previous knowledge of the incident nor any relationship with any investigators or witnesses, I accepted the appointment to review the case and take the action that I thought was appropriate.

“I was formally appointed District Attorney Pro Tempore by order of the Attorney General on April 13, 2020 and began my investigation. After careful review of the evidence presented and after exchanging information with the Glynn County Police Department, the FBI, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, and the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council of Georgia, I am of the opinion that the case should be presented to the grand jury of Glynn County for consideration of criminal charges against those involved in the death of Mr. Arbery.

“While I am somewhat constrained from making out of court statements and public comments under the Georgia Rules of Professional conduct, Rules 3.6 and 3.8, I can state that at the present time, courts in Georgia are prohibited from empanelling grand or trial juries. In Georgia, this prohibition is by order of the Georgia Supreme Court effective thru June 12, 2020 at 11:59 PM. This stay may be extended by order of the Chief Justice due to health concerns associated with the COVID 19 pandemic.

“I have no control over the suspensions due to the pandemic; however, I do intend to present the case to the next available grand jury in Glynn County.”

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr released a statement Tuesday evening about the case. It reads:

"Based on the video footage and news reports that I have seen, I am deeply concerned with the events surrounding the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery.

"I expect justice to be carried out as swiftly as possible and I stand ready to support GBI Director Reynolds, DA Duren and the local community."

Durden declined to comment Tuesday when the prosecutor was asked if he could verify that the video showed the shooting of Arbery.

Map showing Atlanta and Brunswick in Georgia. (FOX 5)

The cellphone video, initially posted by a Brunswick radio station, shows a black man running at a jogging pace on the left side of a two-lane road. A truck is parked in the road ahead of him, with one man in the pickup bed and another standing beside the open driver’s side door.

The runner crosses the road to pass the pickup on the passenger side, then crosses back in front of the truck. A gunshot sounds, and the video shows the runner grappling with a man in the street over what appears to be a shotgun or rifle. A second shot can be heard and the runner can be seen punching the man. A third shot is fired at point-blank range. The runner staggers a few feet and falls face down.

“I think the video is very clear that they were on the truck with guns hunting him down,” said Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Arbery’s father. “I don’t know what more you need to make an arrest.”

According to an incident report filed by Glynn County police, Arbery was shot Feb. 23 after two men spotted him running in their neighborhood and armed themselves with guns before getting in a truck to pursue him. Gregory McMichael told police that he and his adult son thought the young man matched someone caught on a security camera committing a recent break-in in the neighborhood.

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According to his father, Arbery didn’t live far from the Satilla Shores neighborhood where the McMichaels gave chase after spotting him on a Sunday afternoon.

The police report says Gregory McMichael told officers he and his son first tried to stop Arbery by shouting, “Stop, stop, we want to talk to you!”

McMichael said his son got out of the truck and the Arbery “began to violently attack” him and “the two men then started fighting over the shotgun,” the police report said.

The police report says Gregory McMichael turned Arbery onto his back to see if he was armed — but the report doesn’t say whether he had a weapon or not.

Jackie Johnson, the district attorney for Glynn County, recused herself from the case because Gregory McMichael worked as an investigator in her office. He retired a year ago.

Showing Brunswick, Georgia in coastal Glynn County. (FOX 5)

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“All I want to do is get justice for my son,” said Marcus Arbery, the slain man’s father, who believes his son was out jogging when he was killed. “This is terrible. It could happen to anybody’s kid.”

The announcement that a grand jury will review the case came as an attorney for Arbery’s mother posted a cellphone video on Twitter that he said shows the shooting. “This is murder,” lawyer Lee Merritt said.

“Mr. Arbery had not committed any crime and there was no reason for these men to believe they had the right to stop him with weapons or to use deadly force in furtherance of their unlawful attempted stop,” said a statement by Merritt, who represents Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights group, has demanded the U.S. Justice Department investigate.

A phone number listed for Gregory McMichael has been disconnected. The Associated Press could not immediately find a phone listing for Travis McMichael.

The Associated Press contributed to this report