GBI releases new details after father, son charged with murder of Ahmaud Arbery

GBI releases new details after father, son charged with murder of Ahmaud Arbery
Gregory McMichael & Travis McMichael (Source: Glynn County Detention Center)

GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has arrested two men in relation to the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County.

According to the GBI, 64-year-old Gregory McMichael and 34-year-old Travis McMichael were taken into custody on Thursday, May 7.

An update on charges was provided in magistrate court on Friday. Travis is charged with felony murder and aggravated assault. Gregory is charged with party to felony murder and party to an aggravated assault.

Back in February, 25-year-old Arbery was shot and killed in a Brunswick neighborhood. Police reports say he was shot by a man, now identified as Travis McMichael, who believed Arbery was a burglar after a string of break-ins in the area.

The report says Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis, chased Arbery in a truck and the men claim the son shot Arbery in self-defense.

Arbery's family said he was out for a jog when he was shot and did nothing wrong.

The case has gotten national attention after the release of the video showing the controversial shooting. In the video, Arbery is seen running behind a truck that is stopped. One man is outside of the truck on the driver’s side holding a shotgun and another man is in the bed of the truck with a handgun.

Arbery runs around the passenger side of the truck and then in front of the truck where you can't see what is happening for a moment.

Arbery and the man outside of the truck are then seen struggling. Three shots are fired. Arbery collapses and the video ends.

GBI held a news conference Friday at 9 a.m. in Brunswick to provide further details on the case and arrests.

Watch a replay of Friday morning’s news conference below:

#WATCH: The GBI is discussing the arrest of two men now charged with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

Posted by WTOC-TV on Friday, May 8, 2020

Hinesville District Attorney Tom Durden made the decision Tuesday, May 5, that he thought the case should go to a grand jury after he was requested to review the case.

Durden is the third prosecutor to handle the case. The Brunswick prosecutor recused herself immediately given the McMichaels’ connection to her office. Gregory worked at the Glynn County Police Department in the 80s and spent more than two decades as an investigator with the Brunswick DA.

A second prosecutor, Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill, recused himself in early April. The recusal letter from Barnhill provides more background details while raising more questions in the shooting of Arbery.

Barnhill wrote to the state attorney general that his son and Gregory McMichael had helped with a previous prosecution of Arbery. It is not known if Gregory McMichael remembered or recognized Arbery at the time of the incident.

In the letter, Barnhill states that Arbery had a juvenile and felony record, as well as mentions Arbery’s family members that had a criminal history.

WTOC reached out to Barnhill on Wednesday, May 6. He said he had no comment at this time.

Barnhill’s recusal letter is below:

"Dear Ms Crittendon and McGowan:

Thank you again for emailing back. This is a case without any law enforcement warrants. I agreed to take the file from Jackie Johnson, the District Attorney in Glynn County, for review to see if it justified and arrest and/or presentation to a Glynn County Grand Jury.

Greg McMichael, a party/ witness in the matter, retired from law enforcement then worked at her office as an investigator for several years up until re-retiring about 10 months ago. His son, whom I have never met and do not know, is the shooter in this case. Ahmaud Arbery was shot and died in this confrontation.

Upon taking the case, my office began gathering the array of materials one normally gathers. My Chief Victim Assistant, Tammy Horlock, talked several times with Mr Arbery's family; I spoke to the mother once; Senior ADA Michelle McIntire was monitoring the collection of information through Capt. Tom Jump GPD. We had told the family it would take a month to 6 weeks to get the autopsy report. They apparently did not believe us. Note: Ms McIntire in my office received the autopsy April 2nd. I know they called the Attorney General Office sometime during this time.

My son works as an Assistant District Attorney for Jackie Johnson. Unknown to Jackie and me until about 3-4 weeks ago, he had handled a previous felony probation revocation and pleading Ahmaud Arbery to a felony in her Glynn County Office.

A local 'rabble rouser' has taken up this cause and begun publishing wild and factually incorrect and legally wrong accusations on Facebook and other social media formats calling for marches and physical affronts be made against the McMichaels at their homes, and my son's home in Brunswick etc.. . To date I have seen no direct connection between the 'rouser' and the family other than their increased calls for my office to be removed, that I must be biased.

This family are not strangers to the local criminal justice system. From best we can tell, Ahmauds older brother has gone to prison in the past and is currently in the Glynn jail, without bond, awaiting new felony prosecution. It also appears a cousin has been prosecuted by DA Johnson's office. Ahmaud, the deceased, had a juvenile and adult felony record.

In that regard, given the connection between myself and my son, and my son having worked with Greg McMichael for several years, and now known that he and Greg McMichael both helped with the previous prosecution of Arbery; I believe it is in the best interest of justice to recuse both myself and my office from this particular investigation.

In doing so I request another District Attorney be appointed to review the file and give advice to the Glynn County Police Department and determine whether there is anything justifying a presentation to a Glynn County Grand Jury.

I believe we have the majority of the information at our office. There is a decent cell phone video of the entire shooting incident, also video of Arbery burglarizing a home immediately preceding the chase and confrontation. We have a witness list and have done research we would include with the file to be available for the new prosecutor's use if desired.

Thank you for your help in this matter

George E Barnhill

District Attorney

Waycross Judicial Circuit"

In a statement sent to WTOC on May 9, a Glynn County spokesperson says Glynn County police opted not to charge Travis and Gregory McMichael with the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery on advice from two district attorneys, including Waycross DA George Barnhill Sr., who told their detectives the shooting was a “justifiable homicide” less than 24 hours after it happened. The county spokesman also says Barnhill told them not to release facts about the case that “could impact future prosecution.”

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