Three Men Convicted in Murder of Ahmaud Arbery

Three Men Convicted in Murder of Ahmaud Arbery

Jackson Juzang, Staff Writer

The three white men who chased and killed Ahmaud Arbery have been found guilty of murder following his 2020 shooting death in south Georgia, leading to a wave of racial justice protest and a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US. Travis McMichael, his father Greg McMichael, and their neighbor William Bryan were each convicted for murdering Arbery, who was unarmed, after pursuing him in February last year and claiming, without evidence, he had been a part of a series of burglaries in their neighborhood. 

 

The McMichaels grabbed guns and jumped in a pickup truck to pursue the 25-year-old Arbery after seeing him running outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick. Bryan joined the pursuit in his pickup and recorded a cellphone video of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery. The father and son told police they suspected Arbery was a fleeing burglar. The trial of his accused killers also brought up issues of policing — although in this case, it involved questions about private citizens and their rights to detain people they believe to be breaking the law. The prosecution argued that the men provoked the fatal confrontation and that there was no evidence Arbery committed any crimes in the neighborhood. Travis McMichael testified that he shot Arbery in self-defense. He said Arbery turned and attacked with his fists while running past the truck where McMichael stood with his shotgun. At his death, Arbery had enrolled at a technical college and was preparing to study to become an electrician

 

The February 2020 slaying drew limited attention at first. The case has been one of the most closely watched trials with civil rights overtones in the United States since the April murder conviction of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer. He was captured in a bystander video kneeling on the neck of another unarmed Black man, George Floyd, for roughly nine minutes. The video of that incident created an international uproar and raised serious questions about the treatment of minorities at the hands of police. But when a video of the shooting leaked online, Arbery’s death quickly became another example in the nation’s reckoning of racial injustice in the way Black people are treated in their everyday lives. 

 

On all nine counts, the jury returned unanimous verdicts, convicting Travis McMichael, who opened fire on Arbery three times with a shotgun, including charges of malice and felony murder. They face life in prison and will be sentenced later, with the court deciding whether any are eligible for parole. As the first of 23 guilty verdicts were read, Arbery’s father had to leave the courtroom after leaping up and shouting. At the reading of the last criminal count, Arbery’s mother dropped her head and quietly pumped her fists. 

 

Though prosecutors did not argue that racism motivated the killing, federal authorities have charged them with hate crimes, alleging that they chased and killed Arbery because he was Black. That case is scheduled to go to trial in February.