Ahmaud Arbery case leads to new push for hate crime legislation in Georgia

GEORGIA — A murder investigation in Georgia that’s gained national attention is leading to a new push to get hate crime legislation through the general assembly, which is set to reconvene this month.

We asked Gov. Brian Kemp about that video of the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery and the investigation at his news conference at the state capitol.

[RELATED: Father, son arrested and charged in killing of Ahmaud Arbery, GBI says]

Kemp was there to speak primarily about the state’s response to COVID-19.

The GBI can’t just go down and investigate suspected crimes on its own. It has to be invited by a local jurisdiction.

Kemp said he ordered the GBI director offer the help.

“I did that right after seeing that horrific video. I’ve told director Reynolds to follow the facts, to follow the truth and to administer justice without respect to person,” Kemp said.

[Ahmaud Arbery shooting: GBI describes timeline of arrest of Gregory and Travis McMichael]

Right now, some state Democrats and Republicans are putting pressure on the Senate to pass a hate crime bill, nearly a year after it passed in the House.

Georgia is one of only four states that doesn’t have a hate crime law on the books.

There is one pending in the general assembly and now there’s more pressure than ever to get it into law.

Late Thursday, a prominent state Republican lawmaker announced that he’ll support that legislation.

“I hope that we will be able to pass this legislation when the general assembly reconvenes here in the coming weeks,” Dacula Republican lawmaker Chuck Efstration said.

He helped write the hate crime bill that already passed the house but is stalled in a Senate committee.

The bill doesn’t create a separate hate crime charge, like assault or murder, but it allows a jury to consider if something like assault or murder was motivated by hate, and if so, then a judge could hand down a harsher sentence.

“We believe it’s a measured approach. There’s bi-partisan support for the bill, and I’m very hopeful that the Georgia Senate will pass this legislation as soon as possible,” Efstration said.

Representative Al Williams joined other house Democrats online to talk about the shooting death of Arbery by two white men.

He represents an area just north of Brunswick and has been active in the community response.

“It should’ve never gone this far. It was so unnecessary and it’s appalling,” Williams said

We reached out to the governor’s office to ask about that hate crime legislation, and received this response:

“We know conversations about legislation are already underway, and we will work through the process when the general assembly reconvenes.”

The bill already has the support of house speaker David Ralston who says he’ll work to get it passed out of the Senate.

“Do we want to have this type of despicable act occur in our state and not have this act on our books? And not try to put it on the books?” Ralston asked.

A group of Atlanta activists traveled to Brunswick to visit the scene of the shooting.

They say it was reassuring to hear people there say the violence that took place is not representative of their community.

Activist Marcus Coleman says the video of Arbery's murder brings back painful memories.

“Just the way that that video has gone viral and the horrific nature, it reminded you of 1920 and negroes being hunted,” Coleman said.

An attorney with the Atlanta NAACP also made the trip.

He told us they’re doing their own investigation.