All three men involved in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot and killed while jogging in February 2020, have been found guilty of murder by a jury in Georgia.
The three white men who killed Arbery — Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan — were charged with murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and attempt to falsely imprison.
The case drew national attention after a leaked cell phone video, filmed by Bryan, showed the three men chasing Arbery, who was jogging in their neighborhood near Brunswick, Georgia. After pursuing Arbery for several minutes, they cornered him and confronted him with a rifle. Travis McMichael, who was holding the weapon, shot Arbery multiple times, killing him.
The trio claimed that they stalked and killed Arbery because they suspected him of being involved in burglaries in the area — despite the fact that Arbery, who was unarmed, was doing nothing but exercising. “There’s a Black male running down the street,” Greg McMichael said in a 911 call made briefly before his son murdered Arbery in broad daylight.
Arbery’s murder — which his family and civil rights leaders have equated to a modern-day lynching — recieved little attention from Georgia authorities until the cell phone video went public months after he was killed.
“Remember, if local authorities in Georgia had their way, no one would have ever been charged for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery,” author and commentator Keith Boykin said in wake of the verdict. “It took weeks of protest before charges were even brought in the case, 74 days after Arbery was shot and killed in February 2020.”
After the video’s release, it was revealed that local prosecutor Jackie Johnson had instructed authorities not to arrest the three men. Johnson, who lost her re-election in 2020, has since been indicted by a grand jury for “showing favor and affection” to Gregory McMichael, who used to work in her office.
Although the murder verdict was celebrated by racial justice advocates, they maintained that true justice won’t be achieved until there is far-reaching systemic change.
“#AhmaudArbery’s murder was an act of white supremacy emboldened by GA’s laws. This is not justice, but today is a step toward accountability,” read a tweet from Color of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization.
“This verdict upholds a sense of accountability, but not true justice. True justice looks like a Black man not having to worry about being harmed — or killed — while on a jog, while sleeping in his bed, while living what should be a very long life,” Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia) said. “Ahmaud should be with us today.”
Yamiche Alcindor, PBS’s White House correspondent, shared similar sentiments. “We can now legally call the killers of Ahmaud Arbery murderers. But I’m reminded that to those who loved Arbery and to so many others real justice would be him alive today and able to run without being attacked,” she wrote.
The trial also brought to light a number of racist self-defense and citizen’s arrest statutes that empower self-appointed vigilantes to stalk, detain and kill Black people with impunity. Although they were unsuccessful, the lawyers for the McMichaels and Bryan tried to claim that the three men were in compliance with these laws when they killed Arbery.
Since Arbery’s murder, Georgia has repealed the ambiguous version of the citizen’s arrest law that existed at the time of his death. But lawmakers replaced it with a new citizen’s arrest statute, and every state in the country still has their own version of such laws on the books.