Savannah, GA – The three men charged with the murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery after he jogged past them are now also facing federal hate crimes and attempted kidnapping charges.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced in a press release on April 28 that a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Georgia had indicted 35-year-old Travis McMichael, his father, 65-year old Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor, 51-year-old William “Roddie” Bryan, on one count each of interference with rights and one count each of attempted kidnapping.
DOJ said both McMichaels were also charged with one count each of using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
Additionally, Travis McMichael was charged with one count of discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, according to the press release.
The police report said the incident 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 the hunt, 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 can 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 standing 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 is visible 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.
The testimony by lead Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) Agent Richard Dial served to support murder charges by the state and civil rights charges by the DOJ.
Agent Dial testified that Bryan, who filmed Arbery’s shooting on his cell phone, told investigators he saw Travis McMichael use racial epithets while standing over Arbery’s body after he shot him three times.
The testimony served to undermine the McMichaels’ claim that Travis McMichael killed Arbery in self-defense, CBS News reported.
“I don’t think it was self-defense by Mr. McMichael. I think it was self-defense by Mr. Arbery,” Agent Dial testified. “When he couldn’t get away, he chose to fight.”
All three men have already been charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit a felony by the state although the case has remained in limbo and has not been scheduled for trial because the new district attorney wanted to find another attorney to prosecute it, NBC News reported.
Bryan’s claim that Travis McMichael used a racial slur against the man he had just shot bolstered the federal investigation that led to the hate crimes indictment.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan, an attorney with the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, said that the first two counts of the indictment alleged “the defendants used force and threats of force to intimidate and interfere with Arbery’s right to use a public street because of his race.”