Three white men were found guilty in November of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, after suspecting him of committing a series of break-ins in their South Georgia neighborhood. The men were sentenced to life in state prison in January and now face federal hate crimes charges.
Here is what we know about the circumstances of Mr. Arbery’s death.
Ahmaud Arbery, a former high school football standout, was living with his mother outside the small city of Brunswick, Ga. He had spent a little time in college but seemed to be in a period of drift in his 20s, testing out various careers, working on his rapping skills and living with his mother di lui. He also suffered from a mental illness that caused him to have auditory hallucinations.
On Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020, shortly before 1 pm, Mr. Arbery was running in a suburban neighborhood called Satilla Shores, when a man standing in his front yard saw him go by, according to a police report. The man, Gregory McMichael, said he thought Mr. Arbery looked like a man suspected in several break-ins in the area and called to Travis McMichael, his son di lui.
According to the police report, the men grabbed a .357 Magnum handgun and a shotgun, got into a pickup truck and chased Mr. Arbery, trying unsuccessfully to cut him off. A third man, William Bryan, also joined the pursuit in a second truck, according to the report and other documents.
In a recording of a 911 call, which appears to have been made moments before the chase began, a neighbor told a dispatcher that a Black man was inside a house that was under construction on the McMichaels’ block.
During the chase, the McMichaels yelled, “Stop, stop, we want to talk to you,” according to Gregory McMichael’s account in the police report. They then pulled up to Mr. Arbery, and Travis McMichael got out of the truck with the shotgun.
Gregory McMichael “stated the unidentified male began to violently attack Travis and the two men then started fighting over the shotgun at which point Travis fired a shot and then a second later there was a second shot,” the report states.
Mr. Arbery was unarmed.
Shortly after the shooting, the prosecutor for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, Jackie Johnson, recused herself because Gregory McMichael had worked in her office.
The case was sent to George E. Barnhill, the district attorney in Waycross, Ga., Who later recused himself from the case after Mr. Arbery’s mother argued that he had a conflict because his son also worked for the Brunswick district attorney.
But before he relinquished the case, Mr. Barnhill wrote a letter to the Glynn County Police Department. In the letter, he argued that there was not sufficient probable cause to arrest Mr. Arbery’s pursuers.
Mr. Barnhill noted that the McMichaels were legally carrying their firearms under Georgia’s open-carry law. He said they had been within their rights to pursue what he called “a burglary suspect” and cited a state law that says, “A private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence di lei or within his immediate knowledge of she.” That so-called citizen’s arrest law was largely dismantled in response to the Arbery case.
Mr. Barnhill also argued that if Mr. Arbery attacked Travis McMichael, Mr. McMichael was “allowed to use deadly force to protect himself” under Georgia law.
Anger over the killing and the lack of consequences for the McMichaels grew when a graphic video surfaced, showing the shooting on a suburban road.
The cellphone video, shot by Mr. Bryan, is about a half-minute long. It shows Mr. Arbery running along a shaded two-lane residential road when he comes upon a white truck, with Travis McMichael standing beside its open driver’s side door with a shotgun. Gregory McMichael is in the bed of the pickup with a handgun.
Mr. Arbery runs around the truck and disappears briefly from view. Muffled shouting can be heard before Mr. Arbery emerges, fighting with Travis McMichael outside the truck as three shotgun blasts echo.
Mr. Arbery tries to run but staggers and falls to the pavement after a few steps.