Calls for justice mounting in Georgia shooting death of unarmed black man

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In this image from video posted on Twitter Tuesday, May 5, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery stumbles and falls to the ground after being shot as Travis McMichael stands by holding a shotgun in a neighborhood outside Brunswick, Ga., on Feb. 23, 2020. (Twitter via AP)

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (WSAV) – It’s been an emotional 24 hours in the Brunswick area as dozens of protesters gathered to demand an arrest in the Feb. 23 shooting death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery.

The unarmed African American man was shot and killed on a Sunday afternoon as his family says he was jogging through a neighborhood.

Tuesday afternoon, Tom Durden, a temporary prosecutor named in Glynn County to study the case announced he is recommending that a grand jury consider criminal charges in the matter.

Then an explosive piece of cell phone video was posted and made the rounds on social media, apparently showing the moment Arbery was shot and killed.

“When I saw what was on the tape I was horrified to say the least, I actually started crying,” said Dr. John Perry of the Glynn County NAACP.

The two men involved in the incident are both white. Gregory McMichael and his son Travis told police they saw Arbery in their neighborhood and thought he matched the description of a burglary suspect and that he was possibly engaging in some suspicious activity.

They armed themselves with a pistol and a rifle and followed him in their pickup truck and reportedly told him to stop. They said he wouldn’t and when the pickup stopped and Travis McMichael got out of the vehicle that Arbery grabbed his rifle and that’s when the shots went off.

Perry doesn’t believe that version and says the video in no way depicts an attempt at a citizen’s arrest.

“It looks like it was a manhunt,” said Perry. “To see this young man fearing for his life, it looks like he is clearly in fear for his life and is fighting for his life.”

The older McMichael has spent time in local law enforcement in Glynn County and also served as an investigator for the Glynn County area District Attorney’s Office. Two local prosecutors recused themselves from the case although both were criticized for not filing charges.

The police chief of Glynn County has also been criticized for how an investigation was conducted and for not seeking assistance from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI).

Perry and others are calling for the chief, John Powell, who is on administrative leave right now to be fired immediately.

Tuesday night Glynn County Sheriff Neal Jump joined the group calling for more action. He says while his agency was not involved in the investigation, he does feel for Arbery’s parents and other relatives.

“When I first saw the video it was very disturbing and if I were the parents of the young man, I would be totally like his parents and I would be wanting answers,” said Jump.

One of those attending the rally was Thea Brooks, who is the aunt of Arbery.

“We’ve been wondering all this time what really happened because we knew Ahmaud’s character, we know what kind of young man he was.” she said. “So when it happened it took us all off guard because that’s not Ahmaud, the person they were trying to make him out to be.”

In response to the fact that Arbery was jogging the day he died a group called “I run with Maud” has been formed and members are asking for an arrest soon.

Meanwhile, political leaders, including Joe Biden and Gov. Brian Kemp, have been weighing in on the incident online:

Perry says the video and the call for a grand jury should be enough to prompt an arrest.

“In this incident, we’ve been failed tremendously and the community is standing up,” he said.

GBI Director Vic Reynolds announced in a video Wednesday that at the request of Durden and with support from the governor, his agency will be investigating.

“I’m confident that we’ll do justice in this matter,” he said. “But I’m just as confident we’re going to do it the right way. Usually, the right road isn’t the quickest or the fastest way, but it’s the right way.”

Because the court system is shut down until mid-June due to coronavirus, the grand jury cannot take up the case immediately

Perry still thinks an arrest could be made, however.

In terms of waiting for the courts to open, he told News 3: “Governor Kemp has opened up the state, this case should be important enough for some consideration as soon as possible.”

Contributions to this report made by First Coast News and Lewis Levine, Coastal News Service

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