House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee is urging Georgia officials to act after video emerged in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery.
“While it is unusual to receive a letter from so many elected representatives from sister states who have joined forces with legislative leaders from the great state of Georgia, the extraordinary injustice, which occurred in Georgia, has rippled through our Union and thereby demands your immediate attention,” McGhee wrote in a letter signed by a pair of Georgia lawmakers as well.
Arbery — who is black — was shot and killed in February after being confronted by former police officer Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis, who are both white.
Gregory McMichael told police officers he thought Arbery resembled a person suspected of several break-ins in the area. So the duo drove their pickup truck to confront Arbery.
Gregory McMichael said Arbery and his son struggled over a shotgun before Arbery was fatally shot.
As of yet, no evidence has emerged that Arbery was an actual suspect in the burglaries. While some have argued the McMichaels were relying on citizen arrest laws, others argue they had no authority to confront Arbery with weapons on their own accord.
“According to that law, you actually have to be observing the crime or be in the immediate knowledge of the crime,” said S. Lee Merritt, an attorney for the Arbery family, according to CNN.
“The only thing they have ever said is … that Ahmaud stopped by a house that was under construction and he looked through the window. We don’t know if that happened or not, but even if that did happen that is not a felony that would invoke the citizen’s arrest statute that would make this allowable.”
“Mr. Ahmaud Arbery was hunted and killed in broad daylight,” McGhee wrote. “However, the two men responsible for this modern-day lynching remain free.”
A newly-released video of the February shooting from dashcam video from a second vehicle near the scene shows Arbery jogging down a road as he begins to near the McMichael’s pickup.
The video shows Arbery attempting to run to the side of the pickup. The video then loses track before steadying on Arbery in a scuffle with a man before several shots are fired.
Audio prior to that point is unintelligible.
After two district attorneys recused themselves, a third — Tom Durden — said he would present the case before a grand jury.
That will take a while, however. Though Georgia has begun reopening amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, grand juries remain suspended until at least June 12.
McGhee’s letter is addressed to three high-ranking Georgia officials — Gov. Brian Kemp, Attorney General Christopher Carr and Chief Justice Harold Melton.
The letter calls for three actions: lifting the suspension of grand juries in the state, arresting the McMichaels, and removing Glynn County Police Chief John Powell for refusing to make an arrest.
“Without a question, the Constitution of the great state of Georgia was established to ‘perpetuate the principles of free government, insure justice to all, preserve peace, promote the interest and happiness of the citizen and of the family, and transmit to posterity the enjoyment of liberty,” McGhee’s letter concludes.
“If you are unable to bring justice for Mr. Ahmaud Arbery and his family, it will have failed. The eyes of the Nation and the world are on Georgia.”
Added Florida Democratic Part Chair Terrie Rizzo, “The senseless death of a young black man shot while jogging is unacceptable.”
“Black men should not have to fear for their lives while going about their daily activities. As a society, we need to stand up and send a clear message that incidents like this are outrageous and intolerable. The perpetrators of this crime must be brought to justice. Our thoughts are with the family at this difficult time.”