A few months before the George Floyd affair, the death of Ahmaud Arbery had already shocked the United States. In February 2020, three white men killed a 25-year-old black American who was jogging, believing he was a burglar. They were found guilty on Wednesday.
Travis McMichael, 35 and perpetrator of the fatal shots, his father Gregory McMichael, 65, and their neighbor William Bryan, 52, were on trial in Brunswick, Georgia, for hunting down and killing Ahmaud Arbery. The twelve jurors, including one black man, deliberated for more than eleven hours to reach this unanimous verdict.
On February 23, 2020, the 25-year-old was jogging in Brunswick County when he was chased by the three men in their cars. After an altercation, Travis McMichael opened fire and killed the jogger.
The three defendants then assured to have taken him for a burglar operating in the vicinity and had invoked a law of Georgia then authorizing ordinary citizens to make arrests.
A racist crime
A video of the drama, made public nearly three months later, scandalized the United States and Ahmaud Arbery had become an icon of the anti-racist movement Black Lives Matter (black lives matter).
The McMichaels and their neighbor took “on a whim” the decision to hunt Ahmaud Arbery “because he was black and he was running in the street,” said prosecutor Linda Dunikoski in her indictment.
The three men are not done with justice. They are charged with racist crimes at the federal level and will be tried again in February.
A CASE THAT CHANGED GEORGIA
Several controversies have emerged in this affair over the months. Indeed, it was not until May 2020 to see the McMichaels being arrested by law enforcement, just days after the online publication of a video showing the altercation. Until that date, they had not been prosecuted.
A prosecutor was also indicted last September, accused of obstructing the investigation and protecting the two main suspects. Jackie Johnson is indeed suspected of having asked the police not to arrest Travis McMichael, while her father had worked for her for several years. She had finally pulled out of the business.
The affair will have had enough impact for Georgia to change some of its laws. Governor Brian Kemp in particular withdrew legislation that allowed citizens to arrest a person suspected of having committed a crime.
President Joe Biden immediately welcomed the verdict, while acknowledging that “a lot of work” remained to be done before achieving equality.