Warner Robins, GA – A veteran Houston County sheriff’s deputy is facing termination for a comment he posted to Facebook after the three men involved in the murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery were sentenced.
Superior Court Judge Timothy R. Walmsley sentenced Travis McMichael, the defendant who actually shot Arbery multiple times, and his father, Gregory McMichael, both to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Jan. 7, WSB reported.
The judge sentenced William “Roddie” Bryan, the man who helped box in Arbery and then filmed the notorious cell phone video as Arbery was being chased and gunned down by the McMichaels in the Satilla Shores neighborhood, to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
All three defendants are still facing federal hate crime charges in connection with Arbery’s murder.
Local television news station WGXA posted a news story about the sentencings to its Facebook page shortly after the news was announced.
Houston County Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Urhahn, an almost 20-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, posted a comment under the news article that sparked a firestorm of criticism.
“That criminal arbery still got the death penalty though,” Deputy Urhahn allegedly commented in a since-deleted post.
Community members and activists were outraged by the deputy’s comment and called for him to be fired, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The Houston County Sheriff’s Office opened an internal affairs investigation after receiving complaints and Houston County Sheriff Cullen Talton suspended Deputy Urhahn without pay pending termination on Monday.
Sheriff Talton sent Deputy Urhahn a letter that explained he had reached the decision to suspend him after reviewing the complaint and the findings of the investigation.
A copy of that letter was also posted to the sheriff’s department’s official Facebook page.
The sheriff wrote in the letter that he had found that Deputy Urhahn had violated more than one department policy with his social media post about Arbery.
Deputy Urhahn, who joined the Houston County Sheriff’s Office in 2002, stands accused of having brought discredit to his department and conduct unbecoming an officer “which has a tendency to destroy public respect for employees or confidence in the department,” according to the notification letter.
The deputy has until 5 p.m. on Jan. 20 to appeal his termination or he will be fired, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The incident Deputy Urhahn commented on began when Arbery jogged past the McMichaels’ home on Feb. 23, 2020, the Associated Press reported.
The McMichaels told police afterwards that they thought Arbery was the suspect in several recent burglaries in the neighborhood, so they armed themselves and followed him.
The men jumped in their pickup truck and followed the 25 year old as he ran through the neighborhood.
Bryan, their neighbor, jumped in his own pickup truck and joined in, according to CBS News.
Special Prosecutor Jesse Evans said the men effectively boxed in Arbery with their pickup trucks, forcing the encounter that followed.
Evans said Arbery was “was chased, hunted down and ultimately executed,” CBS News reported.
The video filmed by Bryan showed Arbery running up the middle of the residential road toward a white pickup truck that was stopped in the road ahead of him.
In the video, Arbery dodged to the right onto the grass to go around the stopped truck.
Yelling could be heard in the video for a second, and then a gunshot, just before Arbery reappeared in front of the truck.
The video showed Gregory McMichael stood up in the bed of the pickup with a gun in his hand.
Arbery appeared to engage Travis McMichael, who was holding a pump-action shotgun, in a struggle for the gun that drifted off camera for a split second.
While they were off-camera, Travis McMichael’s gun went off – a puff of smoke could be seen on the left side of the screen that indicated where the gunshot came from.
The video showed Arbery and Travis McMichael veered back into the frame, still engaged in a struggle over the gun, and then there was a third gunshot.
Arbery took a couple steps away from Travis McMichael and collapsed face-first in the middle of the street, the video showed.
None of the three men involved in Arbery’s death were arrested at the scene, nor in the several months that immediately followed because of conflicts of interest due to relationship between the McMichaels and local prosecutors.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) took over the case and announced just three days later that they were arresting the McMichaels for murder.
In September of 2021, the first prosecutor on the case was indicted on charges of obstruction of a peace officer and violation of oath of a public officer in connection with her actions in the aftermath of the shooting.