In the aftermath of the shooting death of an unarmed black man in Glynn County, Georgia – a case that has captured national attention – Georgia’s attorney general has called for a federal investigation into how local authorities handled the case.
Ahmaud Arbery was shot to death by two white men while he was out for a jog on the morning of February 23. The two men, Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis, 34, believed that Arbery was responsible for break-ins in the area, and they claimed they were attempting a citizen’s arrest when the shooting occurred. Authorities did not arrest the pair until May 7, following the release of a video of the shooting and the ensuing national outrage.
Attorney General Chris Carr’s office issued a statement on Sunday that he has asked the Department of Justice to look into the case:
“We are committed to a complete and transparent review of how the Ahmaud Arbery case was handled from the outset,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “The family, the community and the state of Georgia deserve answers, and we will work with others in law enforcement at the state and federal level to find those answers.”
The request to the U.S. Department of Justice includes, but is not limited to, investigation of the communications and discussions by and between the Office of the District Attorney of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit and the Office of the District Attorney of the Waycross Judicial Circuit related to this case.
On February 27, the Office of the District Attorney of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit asked Carr to appoint a new prosecutor for the case because Gregory McMichael has once worked as an investigator in that office. That same day Carr appointed the District Attorney for the Waycross Judicial Circuit to take on the case.
At that point, the District Attorney in Brunswick didn’t communicate to Carr that the Waycross District Attorney had already taken part in investigating the case and providing advice to the Glynn County Police Department on it.
On April 7, the District Attorney for the Waycross Judicial Circuit reached out to Carr’s office with a request for a new prosecutor. Carr’s statement elaborates:
In the request of April 7, 2020, the Waycross Circuit District Attorney indicated that he and the Brunswick Circuit District Attorney learned as of “about 3-4 weeks ago,” that his son who is employed as a prosecutor in the Office of the Brunswick Circuit District Attorney had handled a prior prosecution of Mr. Arbery and that one of the defendants in this case had also served as an investigator on the same prosecution. The request of April 7, 2020 did not provide any reason for the delay in contacting the Office of the Attorney General to request appointment of a new prosecutor since the discovery of those facts.
Carr also says that the Waycross District Attorney’s office failed to inform him that they had advised Glynn County Police not to arrest anyone in the case, both in early April and in “an initial opinion” the day after Arbery was shot and killed. NBC News has reported that the Waycross District Attorney defended the actions of Gregory and Travis McMichael in that “initial opinion.”
On April 13, Carr appointed the District Attorney for the Atlantic Judicial Circuit to take over the prosecution. It was this third office’s actions that led to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s look at the case and the arrests that ensued.
Carr’s statement also noted that his office will turn over all their files related to the appointment of prosecutors to this case.
Clearly, there are prosecutors in two offices who need to answer for delays and opinions in this case, and hopefully the Department of Justice can get to the bottom of why the case transpired the way it did. Here’s hoping and praying for justice in an already complicated and frustrating situation.