The Fatal Shooting of Black Georgia Jogger Ahmaud Arbery Explained

Two white men have been accused of murdering a 25-year-old black man as he was out for a jog in Georgia's Glynn County on February 23.

The jogger, who police identified as Ahmaud Arbery, was unarmed at the time he was fatally shot. As of Wednesday morning, no arrests had been made in connection with his death. The two men involved in the shooting were identified as Gregory McMichael, a former law enforcement official, and his son, Travis McMichael.

Video of the incident began circulating online earlier this week, sparking calls for action as public figures and civil liberty organizations demanded an investigation into the shooting. In the video, Arbery can be seen running on the street past a white truck, at which time two men in the truck confront him. The incident escalates quickly, with at least two shots fired before Arbery falls to the ground in front of the truck.

On Tuesday, District Attorney Tom Durden officially requested the Georgia Bureau of Investigations launch a grand jury investigation into the incident once court restrictions imposed by COVID-19 are lifted next month. A press release shared Tuesday by Durden said two other district attorneys — one each in the Brunswick Judicial Circuit and the Waycross Judicial Circuit — recused themselves from the investigation before Durden became involved on April 13.

"Having neither previous knowledge of the incident nor any relationship with the investigators or witnesses, I accepted the appointment to review the case and take the action that I thought was appropriate," Durden said in the Tuesday release.

According to a police report obtained by The New York Times, Gregory McMichael told Glynn County police he saw Arbery running through a neighborhood near Brunswick in the early afternoon on February 23 and suspected Arbery might have been involved a string of burglaries nearby. Gregory McMichael then told police he called for his son to join him in pursuing Arbery. Soon after the McMichaels caught up to Arbery in their truck, the police report said events developed quickly, with at least two shots fired.

Though Gregory McMichael told police Arbery "began to violently attack Travis" before the first shot was fired, the video appeared to show Arbery trying to run past the truck before the confrontation began.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigations said Tuesday as the video began circulating that while it had not yet received a request to investigate the shooting, the Glynn County Police Department had asked it to look into threats allegedly made against individuals involved in the investigation and the video's release. Later in the day, the agency said on Twitter it had received the formal request from Durden to begin investigating the shooting.

The Glynn County Police Department did not respond to Newsweek's request for comment in time for publication.

Ahmaud Arbery
Ahmaud Arbery, pictured here, was fatally shot while jogging in a Glynn County neighborhood on February 23. I RUN WITH MAUD

The shooting has drawn elevated awareness as a result of the shared video, with political figures at the local and national levels chiming in on calls for action.

"Based on the video footage and news reports that I have seen, I am deeply concerned with the events surrounding the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery," Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said Tuesday in an official statement.

Carr's call for "justice to be carried out as swiftly as possible" came around the same time Georgia Governor Brian Kemp addressed the shooting on Twitter. "State law enforcement stands ready to ensure justice is served," Kemp said.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden also took to Twitter to address the shooting, which he called a "murder" on Tuesday. "The video is clear: Ahmaud Arbery was killed in cold blood," Biden said. "It is time for a swift, full and transparent investigation into his murder."

The slow speed of the investigation's start has drawn criticism from several individuals and agencies, who have frequently called the shooting a murder and, in the case of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a "modern-day lynching."

In addressing Arbery's death, which occurred three days before the eighth anniversary of the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia (ACLU-GA) called for "full transparency and accountability" as the investigation moved forward. "Both incidents are a reminder that white supremacy has been a foundation for our country and leads repeatedly to the targeting and harming people of color, particularly African Americans," the ACLU-GA said in an official statement. In 2012, a community watch member in Sanford, Florida, shot 17-year-old Martin as he was walking from a convenience store to the home of his father's fiancé. During the investigation that followed, Martin's shooter said he had followed the teenager because he looked suspicious.

The investigation into Arbery's death is expected to be delayed further due to COVID-19 restrictions currently in place throughout the court system. Once the restrictions are lifted after June 12, Durden wrote, "I do intend to present the case to the next available grand jury in Glynn County," with decisions made at that time regarding whether or not criminal charges would be filed.

"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," S. Lee Merritt, an attorney for the Arbery family, said in a statement. "This is murder."