BRUNSWICK, Ga. — A jury has brought back guilty verdicts for all three men charged in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia in 2020.
Travis McMichael was found guilty on all counts including malice murder and felony murder. Greg McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan were found guilty of felony murder and other charges.
Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael grabbed guns and chased Arbery in a pickup truck after spotting him running through their Satilla Shores subdivision on Feb. 23, 2020.
Neighbor, Bryan, joined and recorded the video of Travis McMichael opening fire as Arbery threw punches and grabbed for his shotgun.
No one was charged in the killing until Bryan’s video leaked and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case from local police. All three men are charged with murder and other offenses.
Defense attorneys said the men suspected Arbery had burglarized a house under construction and intended to hold him until police arrived. Security cameras recorded Arbery inside the house five times, but none of the videos showed him stealing or damaging anything.
Bryan recorded Travis McMichael standing with a shotgun outside the driver’s side door of his idling truck when Arbery approached on foot, then ran around the passenger side. They met in front of the truck, which blocked the camera’s view, when Travis McMichael fired the first of three shotgun blasts. The video shows Arbery punching him and grabbing for the gun as two more shots are fired, then Arbery turns to try to run again before falling face down in the street.
“They made the decision to attack Ahmaud Arbery in their driveways because he was a Black man running down the street,” Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said. “They shot and killed him. Not because he was a threat to them but because he wouldn’t stop and talk to them.”
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Defense attorneys argued that Greg McMichael was forced to shoot after Arbery ran at them.
“He chose to fight,” said Laura Hogue, an attorney for Greg McMichael. She said Arbery decided “without any sense of reason to run at a man wielding a shotgun, leaving him with no other alternative but to be placed in a position to kill him.”
Arbery had enrolled at a technical college and was preparing to study to become an electrician like his uncles when he was killed.
Following Wednesday’s verdict, Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones praised the legal team and the massive amount of supporters that had gathered outside the courthouse.
“I just want to say thank you, guys. Thank you. Thank each and every one of you who fought this fight with us. It’s been a long fight. It’s been a hard fight. But God is good,” Cooper-Jones said.
Marcus Arbery Sr. was seen crying and hugging supporters outside the courtroom.
“We conquered that lynch mob. This is history today. Black kids lives does matter. For real all life matters, not just black children we don’t’ want nobody go through this,” Arbery Sr. said.
“The verdict today was a verdict based on the facts. On the evidence. And that was our goal, to bring that to that jury to do that right thing,” Cobb County Special Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said. “The jury system works in this country, and when you present the truth to people and they see it, they will do the right thing,”
Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, said his team was “disappointed with the verdict, but we respect it.” He plans to file new legal motions after Thanksgiving.
The attorneys for Travis McMichael declined comment after the verdicts. Frank Hogue, one of Greg McMichael’s attorneys promised to appeal .
The judge will hold sentencing hearings in the coming weeks. All three men face life sentences. The question is whether they will have a chance for parole or not.
Reaction across Georgia and the nation came quickly following Wednesday’s verdict.
President Joe Biden released a statement, saying:
“Ahmaud Arbery’s killing – witnessed by the world on video – is a devastating reminder of how far we have to go in the fight for racial justice in this country. Mr. Arbery should be here today, celebrating the holidays with his mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, and his father, Marcus Arbery. Nothing can bring Mr. Arbery back to his family and to his community, but the verdict ensures that those who committed this horrible crime will be punished.
“While the guilty verdicts reflect our justice system doing its job, that alone is not enough. Instead, we must recommit ourselves to building a future of unity and shared strength, where no one fears violence because of the color of their skin. My administration will continue to do the hard work to ensure that equal justice under law is not just a phrase emblazoned in stone above the Supreme Court, but a reality for all Americans.”
Gov. Brian Kemp released a statement, saying:
“Ahmaud Arbery was the victim of vigilantism that has no place in Georgia. As legal efforts continue to hold accountable all who may be responsible, we hope the Arbery family, the Brunswick community, our state, and those around the nation who have been following the case can now move forward down a path of healing and reconciliation.”
“The loss of Ahmaud Arbery was a tragedy that should have never occurred. Today’s verdict brings us one step closer to justice, healing and reconciliation for Ahmaud’s family, the community, the state and the nation,” Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms sent a statement, saying:
“I am grateful the jury has found the three men responsible for the senseless murder of Ahmaud Arbery guilty of their crimes. I am hopeful that this verdict gives Mr. Arbery’s family, and people across America, some level of comfort in knowing that these men are being held accountable for taking the life of an innocent young man.”
Bernice King tweeted her reaction, saying, in part, “The McMichaels and Bryan are indeed guilty of taking his life for no other reason than for him being Black.”
Sen. Raphael Warnock sent a statement, saying:
“Today’s verdict upholds a sense of accountability, but not true justice.
“True justice looks like a young Black man not having to worry about being harmed—or killed—while on a jog, while sleeping in his bed, while living what should be a very long life. Ahmaud should be with us today.
“I am grateful to the jury for their service and for a verdict that says Ahmaud Arbery’s life mattered. He was a son, a nephew, a child of God and he did not deserve to die in this way.
“I will continue working and praying for true justice and for the family as they continue to grieve and begin the long and difficult journey towards healing.”
Sen. Jon Ossoff also sent a statement, saying:
“I extend again my deepest and most heartfelt condolences to the Arbery family and my gratitude to the jury and court for their service.
“Ahmaud Arbery was a young man whose life was stolen from him, from his family, from the many who knew and loved him, and from the countless lives he would have touched in decades to come.
“Ahmaud Arbery’s murderers will be held accountable, but a historic civil rights mobilization was necessary for the killers to face prosecution at all. There was nearly impunity for this murder, and further investigation is necessary to determine how and why officials initially refused to pursue the case.
“The circumstances of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder and the struggle required to secure a prosecution demonstrate profoundly the urgency of reforms to make equal justice real in America.”
In a tweet, Stacey Abrams praised the jury, saying, “A jury believed the evidence of their eyes and saw the meanness in the killers’ hearts. May this verdict bring a small measure of peace to #AhmaudArbery’s family and loved ones.”
In April, the Justice Department charged both McMichaels and Bryan, who are all white, with violating Arbery’s civil rights as well as attempted kidnapping for using their trucks and guns to try to detain him.
The McMichaels were also charged with using firearms in the commission of a crime.
The federal indictment says all three men illegally used force to “injure, intimidate and interfere with” the young Black man “because of Arbery’s race and color.” If convicted of interfering with Arbery’s rights, they could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
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