Three men have been indicted on federal hate crimes charges in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was chased and fatally shot in February 2020 while out jogging in southeast Georgia, the Justice Department said Wednesday.
A federal grand jury indicted Gregory McMichael, who is 65 years old, his son, Travis McMichael, 35, and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., 51, in connection with the killing, which sparked a nationwide outcry after a video of the shooting spread online months later. The men, who are white, have also been charged at the state level with murder and other crimes. They have all pleaded not guilty to those charges.
The five-count federal indictment says the men acted “because of Mr. Arbery’s race and color.” Mr. Arbery’s killing fueled nationwide protests over racial injustice. The federal case represents a significant hate-crimes prosecution by the Biden Justice Department, which has said it would make such investigations a priority as part of a renewed emphasis on enforcement of civil-rights law.
Mr. Arbery was jogging on a residential street when the father and son, armed with guns, got into a truck and chased him through the neighborhood while yelling at him, cutting him off on his route and threatening him, the Justice Department said. Mr. Bryan, who filmed the confrontation, joined in the chase and used his truck to cut off Mr. Arbery, the department said..
Federal prosecutors also said the men chased Mr. Arbery in their trucks in an attempt to restrain and detain him against his will.
The men were each charged Wednesday with one count of interference with Mr. Arbery’s right to use a public street because of his race and with one count of attempted kidnapping. Messrs. McMichael were also charged with using, carrying and brandishing a firearm. Travis McMichael is accused of shooting Mr. Arbery.
Attorneys for the McMichaels didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Mr. Bryan’s lawyer, Kevin Gough, said he and his client were disappointed by the Justice Department’s decision.
“Roddie Bryan has committed no crime,” Mr. Gough said, adding that he looked forward to a trial.
Ben Crump, a prominent civil-rights lawyer who is representing Mr. Arbery’s family, called the move “an important milestone in America’s uphill march toward racial justice, and we applaud the Justice Department for treating this heinous act for what it is—a purely evil, racially motivated hate crime.”
The case attracted the attention of celebrities, civil-rights activists and lawmakers after video of the encounter surfaced, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation opened its own investigation. The shooting spurred lawmakers in Georgia, one of a handful of states at the time of Mr. Arbery’s death that had no hate-crime laws, to pass a bill allowing judges imposing sentences to increase punishment against those who target victims on the basis of perceived race.
State prosecutors have asserted in court proceedings that Mr. Arbery was “chased, hunted down and ultimately executed,” and that Travis McMichael, who shot him, was heard using racial slurs over his body. A portion of the video released publicly shows Mr. Arbery running along a residential road while the McMichaels’ pickup truck is stopped at one end of the street. Mr. Arbery appears to swerve to avoid the truck. As a struggle ensues between Mr. Arbery and Travis McMichael, three gunshots are heard and Mr. Arbery is then seen falling to the ground.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s special agent in charge testified last June that there was additional undisclosed video evidence showing the chase and attempts by the three defendants to detain Mr. Arbery carried on for roughly seven minutes.
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