I have watched repeatedly the videos where Travis McMichael and his father Gregory McMichael hunted down and killed Ahmaud Arbery, a black man, in a Glynn County, GA, neighborhood on February 23. Thursday—45 days after this horrible act–the Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested and charged them with felony murder and aggravated assault—but only after a video surfaced in the public that confirmed in graphic detail this brutal killing. On April 2, after accusations by Arbery’s mother of bias and nepotism within the District Attorney’s office and the police department, Waycross District Attorney George Barnhill recused himself–But not before he wrote extensively that there were no grounds for any arrest.
The police report states that the McMichael’s tried to stop Arbery for questioning upon suspicion of robbing a home construction site. Arbery reversed direction and continued jogging. The McMichael’s pulled beside Arbery and “shouted ‘stop, stop, we want to talk to you’.” Then they pulled past Arbery, stopped the truck and Travis McMichael got out of the truck armed with a shotgun. Gregory McMichael was in the back of the truck bed armed with a .357 Magnum handgun. A struggle ensued when Arbery “began to violently attack Travis.” The police report never concludes whether Arbery was armed. He was not. The video shows when Arbery ran past the right side of the stopped truck, the truck blocks the view of what happened next, then the two men emerge around the left side of the truck struggling with the shotgun.
District Attorney Barnhill’s memo says that the McMichael’s and “Bryan William” were following in ‘hot pursuit’ of a burglary suspect, with solid first hand probable cause,” continuing that “Under Georgia Law this is perfectly legal.” Barnhill then goes into a lengthy dissertation about how the “video made by William Bryan clearly shows the shooting in real time,” where Arbery attacked Travis McMichael and during the struggle over the shotgun, Arbery was shot three times, concluding that “at the point Arbery grabbed the shotgun, under Georgia Law, McMichael was allowed to use deadly force to protect himself.” Barnhill said there was “insufficient probable cause to issue a warrant arrest at this time.”
No one deserves the death penalty for suspected burglary. NO ONE. The McMichael’s should have called the police and let them handle the complaint. This is outrageous behavior to hunt someone down and kill them over mere suspicions. After Arbery collapsed on the road, Travis McMichael turned his back on him and strutted away with the shotgun in his hand, not even looking back to check on Arbery’s condition. This sends a message to every black family in America that our country’s neighborhoods are not safe for them to jog or walk. Moreover, vigilante justice is a threat to every American, especially when it is upheld by those entrusted by the people as keepers of the justice system.
We all, irrespective of race, religion, or ethnicity, should be furious. It is not only that a man was hunted down and killed for mere suspicion of burglary, but also the systemic and institutionalized bias of those in the legal system that concludes in a lack of probable cause for an arrest. What if this happened to your son? As in Isaiah 59:14 says, “And judgment is turned away backward, and justice stands afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.” Christ said in Matthew 24:12, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” The unjust is an abomination to the just. As a Christian man, I want to go on record that I deplore this injustice in the strongest possible terms.