Ahmaud Arbery shooters found guilty of murder by Georgia court
Three white men have been convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black jogger who was shot dead while running through a residential neigbourhood in Georgia.
Travis McMichael, 35, his father Greg McMichael, 65, and their neighbour William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, were found guilty after a jury deliberated for 11 hours.
Mr Arbery’s killing had become part of a larger national reckoning in the United States on racial injustice after graphic video of the shooting emerged following his death.
Jurors asked to have mobile phone footage of Mr Arbery, 25, being fatally shot played back three times before reaching their verdicts.
“I never thought this day would come but God is good. He [my son] will rest in peace,” said Mr Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, outside the court, where crowds cheered the decision.
The jury for the two week trial consisted of 11 white jurors and only one black juror, and there had been concerns an acquittal could lead to violent racially-charged protests.
In the trial prosecutors argued that the defendants chased Mr Arbery because he was black, then provoked a confrontation with him and killed him.
Defence lawyers claimed the three white men were acting in self-defence.
Reverend Al Sharpton, the civil rights leader said outside court: “Let today prove that all whites are not racist. And all blacks are not worthless.
“A jury of eleven whites and one black in the Deep South stood up in the courtroom and said that black lives do matter.”
On Feb 23, 2020 the McMichaels grabbed guns and jumped in a pickup truck to pursue Mr Arbery after seeing him running near Brunswick, Georgia.
Bryan joined the pursuit when they passed his house.
It was Bryan who recorded the graphic mobile phone video which later became public. The footage showed Travis McMichael shooting Mr Arbery at close range with a shotgun as the victim threw punches and grabbed for the weapon.
The McMichaels later told police they suspected Mr Arbery was a fleeing burglar.
On a 911 call played to the jury Greg McMichael told an operator: “I’m out here in Satilla Shores. There’s a black male running down the street.”
He then started shouting, apparently as Mr Arbery approached the McMichaels’ parked truck.
The elder McMichael could be heard on the 911 call shouting “Stop right there! Damn it, stop! Travis!” and then gunshots could be heard a few second later.
Defence lawyers claimed that theMcMichaels were attempting a legal citizen’s arrest.
They said the McMichaels wanted to detain and question Mr Arbery as he had been seen running from a nearby home under construction.
Travis McMichael, the only one of the three defendants to take the witness stand, testified that he shot Mr Arbery while protecting himself.
He claimed Mr Arbery turned and attacked with his fists while running past the parked truck.
Prosecutors said there was no evidence Mr Arbery had committed any crimes in the defendants’ neighbourhood. The former high school American football player had enrolled at a technical college and was preparing to study to become an electrician like his uncles.
Meanwhile, the defence cited a Georgia law that allows anyone to make a citizen’s arrest when they have a reasonable suspicion someone is fleeing a serious crime.
That law has been repealed in the wake of Mr Arbery’s death.
Mr Arbery, a keen jogger, had not stolen anything on his frequent runs through the Satilla Shores neighbourhood, the court heard. When he died there was nothing in his pockets, not even a phone or wallet.
Security footage emerged of him entering the home under construction on the day he was killed.
But it showed he had taken nothing and had either stopped to drink from a tap, or to examine wiring which was interesting to him as a would-be electrician.
Authorities in Brunswick were accused of turning a blind eye to the case as the white gunmen were only arrested two-and-a-half months after the killing when the shocking mobile phone footage emerged.
“Ahmaud Arbery’s killing – witnessed by the world on video – is a devastating reminder of how far we have to go in the fight for racial justice in this country,” President Joe Biden said in a statement.
“Mr Arbery should be here today, celebrating the holidays with his mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, and his father, Marcus Arbery. Nothing can bring Mr Arbery back to his family and to his community, but the verdict ensures that those who committed this horrible crime will be punished.”
Kamala Harris, the vice president, criticised the defence for trying to “dehumanise” Mr Arbery. In a statement Ms Harris, a former prosecutor, said they “chose to set a tone that cast the attendance of ministers at the trial as intimidation, and dehumanised a young black man with racist tropes”.