ATLANTA — Wanda Cooper-Jones still wonders why, one year ago, her son Ahmaud ventured into the unfinished home in Satilla Shores, a middle-class neighborhood just outside Brunswick.
“Did he go in there to get a drink of water? To take a break? Whether he was looking at the wiring, I’m not sure,” Cooper-Jones told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a recent interview. Ahmaud Arbery, 25, had worked as an electrician with his three older brothers, she noted.
She said she takes some solace in the reforms brought about after her son’s death. The fatal shooting led to Georgia finally passing a hate crimes law, for example.
“It still hurts that I lost Ahmaud,” she said. “Knowing that Ahmaud was possibly involved in change tells me he didn’t lose his life in vain.”
But still she wonders about her son’s final day. She is convinced Ahmaud hadn’t gone there to steal anything, as was alleged by Greg and Travis McMichael, the father and son eventually arrested and charged in the Feb. 23, 2020, shooting. The elder McMichael, a retired investigator with the Glynn County District Attorney’s office, told investigators he suspected Arbery in a series of recent neighborhood burglaries.
The McMichaels pursued Ahmaud in their pickup truck. Neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan joined them. All three are charged with felony murder and other crimes and remain jailed without bond.
Interviewed by Glynn County police minutes after the shooting, Greg McMichael, who provided armed cover for Travis from the bed of the truck, said Arbery got what was coming to him.
“To be a honest with you if I could’ve shot the guy, I would’ve shot him myself,” he said.
Cooper-Jones said her son’s death, and the ensuing investigation, opened her eyes to some uncomfortable truths about the community she had called home for 30 years. She remains upset that the detective who informed her Ahmaud was dead claimed he had been “involved in a robbery” even though there were no stolen items found on his body.
“This detective, this investigator was actually comfortable enough to come to my home to tell me something he knew that wasn’t true,” Cooper-Jones said. “So that says a whole lot about the department. It was horrible.”