On February 23, 2020, in the pretty, scenic neighborhood of Satilla Shores, Georgia, Ahmaud Arbery was on his daily jog. The 25-year-old former high school football line-backer had regularly jogged around the Brunswick area for the last 3 years and would often wave to the familiar faces he saw along the route.
Also, out that day was 64-year-old former investigator with the Brunswick Judicial Circuit D.A, Gregory McMichael, who clocked the young man running in the area and made a swift call to the police, informing the dispatcher of “a black man running in the street” and raising concerns that he thought the man may be a suspect in what he claimed had been a string of burglaries in the local area. He said the man had been seen going into a house in the neighborhood that was under construction.
When the dispatcher asked if the man in question was committing a crime by breaking into the house, Mr. McMichael said no, that the house in question was open. When the dispatcher once again asked if any crime was actively being committed, stating “I just need to know what he was doing wrong”, McMichael claimed that he recognized Arbery as a suspect that had been caught on CCTV multiple times and that it was an “on-going thing”.
Minutes after the calls Ahmaud Arbery would be dead.
After reporting Ahmaud Arbery for jogging, Gregory McMichael proceeded to call his 34-year-old son, Travis McMichael, who hopped into his pickup with two firearms and picked up his father. The pair then cruised around the neighborhood looking for Arbery so they could apprehend him, claiming they intended to make a citizen’s arrest.
Soon enough they found him and began to tail him in their truck. They demanded the young man stop jogging, shouting: “Stop! We want to talk to you”.
One can only begin to imagine the fear and confusion felt by Ahmaud Arbery as he was targeted in the street by two armed civilians.
There was shouting and a brief scuffle, followed by three gunshots that ended in a deadly silence.
Ahmaud Arbery would never return home from his daily run and died at the scene. Gregory McMichael would claim his son Travis shot the victim in self-defense, even though they were the ones who initially followed and confronted the unarmed jogger.
Gregory McMichael would go on to give a statement to the Glynn County police, alleging that his son, Travis, had shot Arbery in self-defense. He said Arbery reacted violently to the situation and attempted to wrestle the gun from his son. Gregory McMichael had previously worked as an investigator at the Glynn County Police Department, causing further controversy.
Despite McMichael’s accusations, police found nothing on Ahmaud Arbery that would indicate that he had been involved with any instances of burglary or criminal damage. As for McMichael’s claims that there had been multiple robberies in the area, an investigation into public records published by The Brunswick News revealed that there had only been one instance of robbery in the area since January- the theft of a handgun from an unlocked vehicle that was parked outside Travis McMichael’s home.
Lost in the chaos of the Covid-19 global pandemic, the case went quiet, social distancing rules and lock-downs prevented the people from protesting in groups but those outraged by the incident took to social media to demand justice for Ahmaud, whom they believed was the victim of a racist attack and the hashtag #irunwithmaud was born. Those following the case were shocked that no arrests had been made and that a young black man could be harassed and killed in the street by private citizens who remained free to go about their life.
The murder had not gone unnoticed. A neighbor of the McMichaels, later identified as a Mr. William Brian, had pulled out his phone and started to record when he saw Arbery stop in front of McMichael’s pickup, which had stopped ahead of the young man to cut him off.
The video shows Travis McMichael get out of his vehicle, shotgun in hand, while his father stands in the back of the bed with a handgun. Arbery approaches the vehicle that has driven in front of him and parked in his path and the two parties begin to argue. It is believed that a gunshot can be heard on the footage before Travis McMichael and the victim begin to scuffle, another gunshot can be heard while the pair tussle to the left of the frame before Travis shoots the victim in the torso at point blank range as Arbery appears to defend himself by throwing punches and attempting to disarm Travis McMichael.
Arbery backs away and collapses in a heap and according to reports, bled to death.
Two months after Arbery’s murder, the father and son duo were arrested. Travis McMichael was charged with aggravated assault and murder and his farther, Gregory McMichael was charged with being a party to aggravated assault and murder. The arrest came May 7, 2020, just two days after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case.
The first two district attorneys assigned to the case recused, due to their connections to Ahmaud Arbery, who up until last May, was an investigator at the Brunswick Judicial Circuit district attorney.
Media outlets would begin reporting Arbery’s criminal history, including an incident several years earlier that stated the victim allegedly brought a gun to a high school basketball game as well as a shoplifting incident. The victims mother retaliated to the reports calling it an attempt to assassinate Ahmaud Arbery’s character, going on to highlight that whatever he may or may not have done in the past was completely irrelevant to the shooting death of her unarmed son who was killed in cold blood for simply jogging.
Ahmaud Arbery’s father called his son’s murder “a modern-day lynching” and added that he did not know how he would ever get over it.