Ahmaud Arbery remembered 1 year after killing: “We lost a great soul”

ATLANTA — One year ago today, two men in south Georgia shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery as he jogged along a road.

Travis and Gregory McMichael claimed they were trying to make a citizen’s arrest before shooting the 25-year-old to death. Their friend Roddie Bryan recorded the shooting and Arbery’s death on video.

A memorial procession led by Arbery’s family took place Tuesday through the Satilla Shores subdivision, where he fell bleeding in the street from three close-range shotgun blasts.

Organizers asked supporters outside Brunswick to participate in a virtual 2.23-mile run in memory of Arbery, an avid runner whose family says he was jogging when he was killed.

“It is important to remind people of the origins, when it all started,” said Jason Vaughn, Arbery’s high school football coach and an organizer of the anniversary events. “For a long time, it was like we were yelling into the dark, and nobody was listening.”

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Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper-Jones sat down with Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne

“‘My heart’s heavy, knowing that a year has passed. It’s been a long hard year,” she said. “We lost a great soul and that great soul was my son.”

Cooper-Jones had meetings with two attorneys, including new Cobb County DA Flynn Broady, who is the special prosecutor on the criminal case.

Broady told Winne that this would be his first time meeting with the family since he took over the case in January.

“I think as a nation we’re tired of the hate. We’re tired of the intolerance and that’s what this case is all wrapped around you know, how we tolerate each other in our neighborhoods,” Broady said. “We’re hearing motions on what evidence is gonna come in but we’re hoping that we can get through the COVID situation and have the safety that we need to take this case to trial and get it done.”

The family’s lead civil lawyer Lee Merritt filed a civil rights lawsuit with several other attorneys. The federal lawsuit is against the McMichaels, Bryan, various officials and Glynn County.

It alleges wrongful death, cover-up and conspiracy.

“What we’re really looking for is an amount determined by a jury or a fact finder that would cause Glynn County to address the systemic issues that not only cause Ahmaud’s death, but leaves the community vulnerable,” Merritt said.

Bob Rubin, who represents Travis McMichael, told Channel 2 Action News he would review the lawsuit but the lawsuit was expected. Rubin said he expects the lawyers to seek compensation from sources other than Travis McMichael, who has no assets to his name.

“When I laid Ahmaud to rest, one of the last things I shared with my son was I will fight for you son. Now it has been revealed what happened. My fight turns into justice.”

THE SHOOTING INVESTIGATION

Arbery had been dead for more than two months when a national outcry erupted after cell phone video of the shooting leaked online May 5.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case the next day and quickly arrested the shooter, Travis McMichael, his father, Greg McMichael, and neighbor Roddie Bryan on murder charges.

Outrage over Arbery’s slaying still simmered when a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd on May 25, igniting protests across the U.S. denouncing racial injustice.

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Gov. Brian Kemp is asking Georgia lawmakers to all but eliminate an 1863 state law authorizing private citizens to make arrests. The prosecutor first assigned to the Arbery case cited that law in concluding the killing was justified.

Attorneys for all three men charged in the case insist they committed no crimes. The McMichaels’ lawyers have said they pursued Arbery suspecting he was a burglar after security cameras had previously recorded him entering a home under construction. They say Travis McMichael shot Arbery fearing for his life as they grappled over a shotgun.

It was Bryan, the third defendant, who took the cellphone video of the shooting from the driver’s seat of his pickup truck.

Prosecutors have said Arbery stole nothing and was merely out jogging when the McMichaels and Bryan chased him. They remain jailed without bond.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report