Gov. Kemp signs citizen’s arrest law repeal

ATLANTA — A Civil War-era law allowing Georgians to perform a citizen’s arrest has officially been repealed.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed House Bill 479 at the State Capitol Monday afternoon. The General Assembly approved the repeal of Georgia’s citizen arrest law in March.

Kemp and state lawmakers have been pushing for the repeal for nearly a year following the death of Ahmaud Arbery and the shocking video that circulated months later.

The Governor was joined by a bipartisan group of legislators, advocacy organizations and members of Ahmaud Arbery’s family.

The three men charged with murder in the Arbery case invoked the current citizen’s arrest law as their defense. Last week, a trial date was officially set with jury selection to begin Oct. 18.

Kemp said during the signing ceremony that he was proud to sign the bill while also protecting “every Georgian’s sacred right to defend their person and property.”

“After the tragic killing of Ahmaud Arbery, we knew that action was needed to ensure an antiquated, Civil-War era statute could not be used to justify rogue vigilantism in the Peach State,” Kemp said.

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Arbery, 25, was jogging through a Brunswick neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020 when Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan chased after him in a pickup truck.

The group claimed Arbery was a burglary suspect in the neighborhood. They claimed citizen’s arrest powers in the chase before Travis McMichael shot and killed Arbery. Bryan recorded the shooting on video, which went viral months after Arbery’s death.

“I think anybody that saw that just realized that’s not how this should be working. It’s not any excuse for modern day vigilantism, if you will,” Kemp told Channel 2 Action News in March.

“I think we’re sending a big message as our state, my understanding, is the first state in the country to make a change like this. I think that speaks to who we are as Georgians.”

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