Georgia prosecutor pledges to find justice in Arbery slaying

 

DECATUR, Ga. (AP) — The Atlanta-area district attorney now prosecuting the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery spoke for the first time about the case on Friday, pledging to “make sure that we find justice” for a “broken” family and community.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation director Vic Reynolds appeared alongside Cobb County D.A. Joyette Holmes, saying that "at this point we feel confident the individuals who needed to be charged have been charged.”

Their news conference at GBI headquarters in Decatur followed the arrest Thursday of 50-year-old William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. on charges of felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. Bryan is the man whose cellphone video of Arbery’s shooting led to the arrest of Gregory and Travis McMichael on murder and aggravated assault charges more than two months after the slaying.

12 PHOTOS
Ahmaud Arbery
See Gallery
Ahmaud Arbery
Lee Merritt, a lawyer representing the family of Ahmaud Arbery, poses for a photo by a mural in the likeness of Arbery painted by artist Theo Ponchaveli in Dallas, Saturday, May 9, 2020. Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, has said she thinks her son, a former high school football player, was jogging for exercise before he was killed on Feb. 23. After a video of the shooting emerged on social media, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, on Wednesday, arrested Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son, Travis McMichael, 34, and they were jailed on murder and aggravated assault charges. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
This photo combo of images taken Thursday, May 7, 2020, and provided by the Glynn County Detention Center, in Georgia, show Gregory McMichael, left, and his son Travis McMichael. The two have been charged with murder in the February shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, whom they had pursued in a truck after spotting him running in their neighborhood. (Glynn County Detention Center via AP)
BRUNSWICK, GA - MAY 09: Jasmine Arbery, sister of Ahmaud Arbery (R), and Wanda Cooper-Jones, Ahmaud's mother, comfort one another while people gather to honor Ahmaud at Sidney Lanier Park on May 9, 2020 in Brunswick, Georgia. Arbery was shot and killed while jogging in the nearby Satilla Shores neighborhood on February 23. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
BRUNSWICK, GA - MAY 09: Akeem Baker (R), best friend to Ahmaud Arbery, and Jasmine Arbery, Ahmaud's sister, speak to a crowd gathered to honor the life of Ahmaud at Sidney Lanier Park on May 9, 2020 in Brunswick, Georgia. Arbery was shot and killed while jogging in the nearby Satilla Shores neighborhood on February 23. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
BRUNSWICK, GA - MAY 09: Umoja Spaulding (L) and Ben Butler run across the Sidney Lanier Bridge to honor Ahmaud Arbery on May 9, 2020 in Brunswick, Georgia. Arbery was shot and killed while jogging in the nearby Satilla Shores neighborhood on February 23. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
BRUNSWICK, GA - MAY 09: People return to their vehicles after gathering to honor the life of Ahmaud Arbery at Sidney Lanier Park on May 9, 2020 in Brunswick, Georgia. Arbery was shot and killed while jogging in the nearby Satilla Shores neighborhood on February 23. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
BRUNSWICK, GA - MAY 09: People gather to honor Ahmaud Arbery at Sidney Lanier Park on May 9, 2020 in Brunswick, Georgia. Arbery was shot and killed while jogging in the nearby Satilla Shores neighborhood on February 23. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
BRUNSWICK, GA - MAY 09: Demonstrators raise their fists at a parade of passing motorcyclists riding in honor of Ahmaud Arbery at Sidney Lanier Park on May 9, 2020 in Brunswick, Georgia. Arbery was shot and killed while jogging in the nearby Satilla Shores neighborhood on February 23. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
BRUNSWICK, GA - MAY 08: A young girl looks at a memorial for Ahmaud Arbery near where he was shot and killed May 8, 2020 in Brunswick, Georgia. Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael were arrested the previous night and charged with murder relating to the February 23 shooting in the Satilla Shores neighborhood. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
BRUNSWICK, GA - MAY 08: Gary Arbery, an uncle to Ahmaud Arbery, speaks to demonstrators during a protest of the shooting death of his nephew at the Glynn County Courthouse on May 8, 2020 in Brunswick, Georgia. Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael were arrested the previous night and charged with murder. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
BRUNSWICK, GA - MAY 08: Family of Ahmaud Arbery embrace at the Glynn County Courthouse during a protest of the shooting death of Arbery on May 8, 2020 in Brunswick, Georgia. Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael were arrested the previous night and charged with murder. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
BRUNSWICK, GA - MAY 08: Demonstrators protest the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery at the Glynn County Courthouse on May 8, 2020 in Brunswick, Georgia. Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael were arrested the previous night and charged with murder. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Asked how Bryan could be charged with murder if he didn't pull the trigger on the weapon used to kill, Reynolds referred to Bryan's arrest warrant, which said he tried “to confine and detain" Arbery without legal authority by “utilizing his vehicle on multiple occasions” before Arbery was shot.

“We are going to make sure that we find justice in this case. We know that we have a broken family and a broken community down in Brunswick,” Holmes said.

Bryan's attorney, Kevin Gough, has said his client played no role in Arbery's death, asserting that “Roddie Bryan is not now, and has never been, more than a witness to the shooting.”

But the GBI director said Friday that "if we believed he was a witness, we wouldn’t have arrested him.”

Under Georgia law, a person can be charged with felony murder for committing any felony that causes the death of someone else. It does not require intent to kill and carries an automatic life sentence.

Arbery was slain Feb. 23 when the white father and son armed themselves and pursued the 25-year-old black man running in their neighborhood. Gregory McMichael told police he suspected Arbery was a burglar and that Arbery attacked his son before being shot.

Bryan lives in the same subdivision just outside the port city of Brunswick, and the video he took from the cab of his vehicle helped stir a national outcry when it leaked online May 5. Gov. Brian Kemp called it “absolutely horrific.” The GBI soon took over the case from local police, and the arrests of the McMichaels followed on May 7.

In the Glynn County police incident report on the shooting, Gregory McMichael told an officer that at one point Arbery “began running back the direction from which he came and `Roddy' attempted to block him which was unsuccessful." It's the only mention in the police report of any potential involvement by Bryan.

Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, did not immediately return email and text messages Friday. He did not answer his phone and his voicemail was full. His statement Monday said Bryan “is not a vigilante. Roddie did not participate in the horrific killing of this young man. Mr. Bryan has committed no crime, and bears no criminal responsibility in the death of Ahmaud Arbery.”

Attorneys for Arbery's parents cheered the news of Bryan's arrest.

“We called for his arrest from the very beginning of this process,” attorneys S. Lee Merritt, Benjamin Crump and L. Chris Stewart said in a statement. “His involvement in the murder of Mr. Arbery was obvious to us, to many around the country and after their thorough investigation, it was clear to the GBI as well.”

Bryan's video of the shooting was taken from the driver's seat of a vehicle following Arbery as he runs along a residential street. A pickup truck is parked in the road ahead of Arbery, with one man in the truck's bed and another standing beside the open driver's side door.

The video shows Arbery run around the truck to the right before he cuts back in front of it. Then a gunshot can be heard, followed by a second shot. Arbery can be seen punching a man holding what appears to be a shotgun, who then fires a third shot point-blank. Arbery staggers and falls face down in the street.

Gregory McMichael retired last year after more than two decades as an investigator for the local prosecutor's office. Because of those ties, Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson recused herself from the case. Two other outside prosecutors stepped aside in succession before Holmes was appointed.

Now Bryan is behind bars along with the McMichaels in the Glynn County jail. A judge has yet to decide whether to free them on bond pending trial. Attorneys for the father and son have urged people not to rush to judgment.

___

Bynum reported from Savannah, Ga.

Read Full Story