BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Three white men were found guilty of murder Wednesday in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man whose killing last year helped fuel national debate on racial profiling and vigilantism.
They were also convicted of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony.
The murder convictions carry a sentence of life in prison.
Gregory McMichael, 65, his son, Travis McMichael, 35, and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., 52, chased down Arbery in their pickup trucks as he ran through their Satilla Shores subdivision near the coastal port city of Brunswick before the younger McMichael shot him dead.
The men later said they were attempting to make a citizen’s arrest and that Travis McMichael was acting in self-defense, firing only after Arbery had lunged for him and his gun.
It took jurors — 11 of them white and one Black man in a county that is 27% Black — less than two days to reach their decision as a throng of family, friends, pastors and activists milled about outside the downtown courthouse.
The verdict came less than a week after a jury in Kenosha, Wisconsin, delivered a not guilty verdict in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, a teenage vigilante who shot and killed two men and wounded another last year at violent protests against police brutality.
The slaying of Arbery on a quiet Sunday afternoon, Feb. 23, 2020, startled Americans on both sides of the political divide.
It inspired tens of thousands of people across the nation to take part in #IRunWithMaud solidarity jogs and spurred Georgia’s staunchly Republican governor, Bryan Kemp, to sign into law the state’s first hate crimes bill and repeal the state’s Civil War-era citizen’s arrest law.
The jury had to grapple with key questions: Why did the three men pursue Arbery as he ran through their predominantly white neighborhood? Did they have a legal right to carry out a citizen’s arrest? Did Travis McMichael act in self-defense?