The Ahmaud Arbery shooting: Video should not be required for racial justice
In the case of Ahmaud Arbery, we once again see how nothing changes a crime narrative like a video.
Georgia authorities arrested and charged a white father and son Thursday with murder in the February shooting death of Arbery, a black man they had pursued in a truck after seeing him running through their neighborhood.
The charges of murder and aggravated assault against Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34, came more than two months after Arbery, 25, was killed on a residential street just outside the city of Brunswick, Georgia.
Protests over what appeared to be a stalled investigation heated up after a copy of a cellphone video of the incident, which police possessed but had not revealed, was released to local media.
The video, which went viral, turned on its head the narrative spun by initial police reports. Gregory McMichael, a retired investigator for the Glynn County district attorney's office, had claimed self-defense. According to the police report, he told police that he and his son had chased Arbery because they suspected him of being a burglar after they saw him "hauling ass" down the street.
But the video shows Arbery, a former high school football player whose parents later said regularly exercised by running through the residential neighborhood, casually jogging down the side of the road until he passes the parked pickup truck where two white men are waiting.
The younger McMichael appears to be riding in back in the truck bed. They apparently shout for him to stop but he keeps running. A confrontation unfolds on screen and off. After a gunshot and apparent scuffling, the black man is seen grappling with a white man over what appears to be a rifle or shotgun.
After a scuffle and a second shot, the runner can be seen punching the man. After a third shot, the runner staggers a few feet and falls face down.
Suddenly the case that had seemed dormant came alive. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation made the arrests within 36 hours of beginning its investigation into the case. The GBI had been called in after one prosecutor recused himself and a second argued that arrests were not warranted because the father and son were acting within Georgia's citizen arrest and self-defense statutes.
In a Friday news conference after the arrests, Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds wasn't buying that. There was "more than sufficient probable cause," he said, to charge the McMichaels with felony murder in the case.