The parents of an African American man slain in a pursuit by two armed white men have called for the immediate arrest of those responsible instead of waiting a month or longer before a grand jury in the state of Georgia could consider bringing charges.
One of the men alleged to have killed Ahmaud Arbery, Gregory McMichael, worked as an investigator in the Glynn County district attorney’s office. He retired last year.
“I think no arrests have been made because of the title he carried as a retired police officer.” Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, said in an appearance on Good Morning America on Thursday.
An outside prosecutor in charge of the case said he wants a grand jury to decide whether criminal charges are warranted. That will not happen until at least mid-June, since Georgia courts remain largely closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A swelling outcry over the February 23 shooting of Arbery intensified this week after a cellphone video that lawyers for his family say shows the killing surfaced online Tuesday.
Following the video’s release, a large crowd of demonstrators marched in the neighbourhood where Arbery was killed, and the state opened its own investigation, which the governor and attorney general pledged to support.
The men who pursued Arbery before shooting him told police they believed he had committed a recent burglary in the area.
Cooper-Jones, told reporters Wednesday she believes her 25-year-old son “was just out for his daily jog” in a neighbourhood outside the port city of Brunswick, Georgia. She said she has not seen the video and has no desire to do so.
“I saw my son come into the world,” Jones said. “And seeing him leave the world, it’s not something that I’ll want to see ever.”
Attorneys for Arbery’s family said the father and son shooters, who have acknowledged in a police report grabbing guns and pursuing Arbery in a truck after seeing him running in their neighbourhood, should be arrested now instead of awaiting an indictment from a grand jury – as often happens in criminal cases.
“These men were vigilantes, they were a posse, and they performed a modern lynching in the middle of the day,” said Lee Merritt, a lawyer for Arbery’s mother.
According to an incident report filed by Glynn County police, Arbery was shot after two men spotted him running in their neighbourhood on a Sunday afternoon.
Gregory McMichael told police that he and his adult son thought the runner matched the description of someone caught on a security camera committing a recent break-in in the neighbourhood. They armed themselves with guns before getting in a truck to pursue him.
The father said his son, Travis McMichael, got out of the truck holding a shotgun, and Arbery “began to violently attack” him. He said Arbery was shot as the two men fought over the shotgun, according to the police report.
After Arbery was shot, the police report says, Gregory McMichael turned him onto his back to see if he was armed. The report does not say whether he had a weapon.
A phone number listed for Gregory McMichael has been disconnected. The Associated Press could not immediately find a phone listing for Travis McMichael.