Georgia district attorney vows to bring shooting of unarmed black man to grand jury

Georgia prosecutors said Tuesday they plan to present evidence to a grand jury for possible charges against men who chased, and eventually gunned down, an unarmed black man they believed was a burglar — but whose family say was simply jogging.

Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was shot to death in Brunswick, a coastal city about midway between Savannah and Jacksonville, Florida, on Feb. 23 as he was running through the quiet neighborhood of Satilla Shores.

“I am of the opinion that the case should be presented to the grand jury of Glynn County for consideration of criminal charges against those involved in the death of Mr. Arbery,” according to a statement by District Attorney Thomas Durden, based in Hinesville 70 miles away from the shooting scene.

Durden is the third DA to have the case, after potential conflicts of interest prompted two other prosecution offices to recuse themselves.

A spokeswoman for Durden said the office would not answer any questions or make any other comment beyond its short, written statement.

Durden did not outline what charges he’d seek against those possibly responsible for Arbery’s slaying.

It was also unclear when a grand jury could be convened to hear evidence, as courts in Georgia are prohibited from empaneling any grand or trial jury through at lest June 12, as the nation fights the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have no control over the suspensions due to the pandemic; however, I do intend to present the case to the next available grand jury in Glynn County,” according to Durden.

Lee Merritt, a lawyer for the victim’s family, posted a brief video clip to Twitter on Tuesday that purportedly shows Arbery tussling with his killer.

The footage, which appears to be taken by a motorist coming up to the scene.

“The video clearly shows Mr. Arbery jogging down the road in the middle of the day,” Merritt said in a statement. “Mr. Arbery had not committed any crime and there was no reason for these men to believe they had the right to stop him with weapons or to use deadly force in furtherance of their unlawful attempted stop.”

The men who chased down Arbery have been identified by police as Brunswick resident Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34.

The older McMichael, with his .357 Magnum and his son, with a shotgun, told police they believed Arbery might be a burglar and chased him in their truck.

After the men caught up with Arbery, there was a fatal confrontation.

“McMichael stated (that) the unidentified male began to violently attack Travis and the two men then started fighting over the shotgun at which point Travis fired a shot and then a second later there was a second shot,” according to a a Glynn County police report.

Arbery, a former high school football player, was a health buff who jogged nearly every day, his family said.