This past February, Ahmaud Arbery went for for a jog in his own neighborhood. He didn’t make it home alive. Often referred to as ‘jogging while black‘, many people have met the same fate as Arberry. Their killers usually claim self-defense. This time, however, someone captured the event with their cell phone camera, revealing that Arberry was, indeed, just jogging, and that his killers were just racist jerks.
We all knew that, though, didn’t we?
The story was the same as the hundreds (thousands?) of similar stories that we have heard before. Self styled neighborhood watch volunteers thought they saw the guy that had been breaking into homes and felt it was their responsibility to catch the criminal once and for all. So, by their own admission, when the McMichaels saw Arbery jog by, they grabbed a .357 Magnum and a shotgun, jumped into their truck, chased Arbery down, and then shot him. They were pretty sure, the police report claims, that they had seen Arbery before, and they believed that Arbery was armed.
It took more than two months for the McMichaels to be arrested, during which time there were the same old narratives vaulted back and forth in the media. When the video finally dropped, prosecutors were forced to finally make the arrests. That is when the other shoe dropped.
It turns out that District Attorney George Barnhill found it necessary to recuse himself from the case. Barnhill’s son, a prosecutor in the Brunswick District Attorney’s office had already been involved in a former case concerning Arbery. That is not all! The police officer involved in the case was none other than Greg McMichael.
Yes, Ahmoud Arbery was known to Greg McMichael. Not only did they live in the same neighborhood, but McMichael had previously investigated Arbery and testified against him in court.
It took Barnhill a strangely long time to recuse himself. He had inherited the case from Brunswick prosecutor Jackie Johnson after she recused herself due to formerly having worked with Greg McMichael. Before the video was uploaded to YouTube and subsequently went viral, Barnhill spent some energy excusing the McMichaels for what they did.
Barnhill argued that there was not sufficient probable cause to arrest the McMichaels. They were allowed to carry their firearms, and they had the right to chase after burglary suspects, claimed Barnhill. Furthermore, citizen arrests are allowed in Georgia and the law also allows for the use of deadly force for self protection.
Barnhill even went into great detail in his recusal letter to further argue how Arbery had initiated the fight, had grabbed the shotgun, and suggested that it was possible that Arbery had shot himself by pulling on the barrel of the shotgun.
This bizarre explanation was followed up by the statement: “Arbery’s mental health records and prior convictions help explain his apparent aggressive nature and his possible thought pattern to attack an armed man”.
Now, mental health status and prior convictions should not make it ok to hunt down a man and kill him. Neither should it be okay to do the same to a man who stopped for a moment to take a look at a newly poured house foundation (this is the justification for why the McMichaels believed that Arbery was the burglary suspect they had been watching for). So, in addition to jogging while black, Arbery was guilty of looking at new construction while black. Is that a thing?
By the way, that reminds us. One of the most infuriating aspects of this entire story is WHY the McMichaels were watching for a burglar in the first place.
Some time before the shooting, Travis McMichael forgot his gun in his unlocked truck. When he remembered, the gun was gone. Clearly, Travis wanted his gun back and one night when the McMichaels saw Arbery running, they assumed that it was he that took the gun. They justified their belief that Arbery had a gun by claiming they had once seen Arbery “put his hand down his pants”. The next time they saw Arbery on his run, the McMichaels chased him down and shot him.
Arbery didn’t have their gun, or any gun at all. He was just jogging.