U.S. DOJ Investigating Ahmaud Arbery Shooting Death as Possible Hate Crime, Family Attorney Says

The United States Department of Justice is officially investigating the February shooting death of Georgia man Ahmaud Arbery as a possible hate crime, his family's attorney confirmed to CBS News Monday.

Federal authorities in the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia are conducting an investigation into the conduct of two district attorneys and the Georgia law enforcement officers involved in the February 23 alleged murder of Arbery. The lawyer for the family, Lee Merritt, appeared Monday on TMZ Live saying investigators are looking into any possible cover-up following the videotaped shooting death of Arbery during a jog in Brunswick, Georgia. Merritt people within the federal office met with members of the family last week to say they were officially investigating the Arbery case.

Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34, were not officially charged by Georgia prosecutors in the alleged murder of Arbery until nearly three months after his death. Cell phone video recorded by witness William "Roddie" Bryan sparked national outrage as it showed the McMichael father and son duo appearing to gun down the unarmed Arbery in the middle of the road. Only after the leaking of the video months later did the Georgia Bureau of Investigation file murder charges against the McMichaels.

"Because if you shoot anybody in the street in broad daylight, just in general you expect at least an arrest," Merritt told TMZ Monday. "There were no arrests made—we went for three months without any major arrest. So we're looking at both the state entities, but you also have to go after the state actors as well."

Newsweek subscription offers >

After relaying that the federal investigators are looking into Arbery's death as a potential hate crime, the family attorney added, "this case makes it clear that blacks in South Georgia are not getting equal protection under the law." He accused Georgia law enforcement and local prosecutors who failed to file charges in the case for nearly three months as part of a "vast conspiracy."

Hate crimes have been enforced by the Department of Justice since being signed into law in 1968. In 2009, the definition and enforcement of hate crimes was expanded to give prosecutors more legal tools which built on 1995 guidelines elevating sentencing for those convicted of hate crimes on the federal level.

Merritt said the elder McMichael had been essentially deputized by local police despite, although citizens' arrest laws do not apply to this case. The man who recorded the video, Bryan, is also under investigation for his potential role, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced earlier this month. The McMichaels stated they believed Arbery was a burglary suspect tied to a recent string of petty crimes in the area, according to Glynn County police records from the time of the shooting.

Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, told NBC News earlier this month that although she was glad to see the McMichaels were finally arrested, it is now time for them to be convicted.

Newsweek subscription offers >

Newsweek reached out to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Monday morning, but the GBI had not responded by publication time.

Ahmaud Arbery
Federal authorities in the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia are conducting an investigation into the conduct of two district attorneys and the Georgia law enforcement officers involved in the February 23 alleged murder of Arbery. Sean Rayford/Getty
U.S. DOJ Investigating Ahmaud Arbery Shooting Death as Possible Hate Crime, Family Attorney Says | U.S.