The mother of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old black man who was pursued and shot dead last year while jogging in a neighborhood in Georgia, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday, alleging an attempt police and prosecutors to “cover up” the murder of her son. The trial comes exactly one year after Arbery was cornered and shot by a group of civilian men.
On February 23, 2020, Arbery was jogging in a Brunswick neighborhood when he stopped at a construction site for a drink of water or rest, according to the complaint. As he continued his run, he was then allegedly chased and cornered by Gregory McMichael and his son Travis, both white. A third man, William Bryan, is also accused of boxing Arbery with his truck before Travis shot him three times.
More than two months after Arbery’s death, the McMichaels werewith murder and aggravated assault. told police they were acting in self-defense and believed Arbery was a burglary suspect. Bryan, who has been charged with murder and felonious attempt to commit false imprisonment, argued that he when shooting.
The civil complaint details the alleged illegal actions that took place before and after Arbery’s death. According to the complaint, after receiving several calls from the owner of the construction site about a trespassing on the property, Glynn County police “stood in” for the McMichaels, Bryan and another man to act as only responsible for law enforcement in relation to the site. As a result, police reportedly began passing on the owner’s complaints to the men and ordered the site owner to call Gregory McMichael “day or night” for trespassing reasons.
The complaint claims that the three men’s alleged deputizing made them feel encouraged to pursue Arbery on February 23 without waiting for law enforcement to intervene.
“Defendants Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael armed themselves to perform the duties assigned to them by the Glynn County Police Department in response to recent trespassing on the construction site,” the complaint alleged. “Defendants Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael had been authorized and encouraged to take such law enforcement action …”
The complaint further alleges that a cover-up by Glynn County police began “as” law enforcement arrived at the scene of Arbery’s death. Although he saw Arbery’s bleeding body on the ground, according to the complaint, police did not arrest any of the men.
“The Glynn County Police Department did not make arrests at the scene of the murder because it had encouraged and ratified the defendants Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and Bryan’s illegal and unconstitutional conduct,” the complaint alleged. .
An attorney representing Bryan told CBS News: “The filing of the civil suit, seeking ‘over a million dollars’ damages was not unexpected. … The civil suit, like the criminal case, will show that Mr. Bryan acted within the law. “
The Glynn County Police Chief did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Further, the complaint claims that Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson decided to protect the men from the charges because of her relationship with Gregory McMichael. McMichael, who was previously a police officer, had also worked as an investigator in Johnson’s office for his entire tenure until his retirement in 2019, according to the complaint.
According to the complaint, Johnson refused to charge the men and, knowing that she would have to recuse herself from the case due to her relationship with McMichael, worked to assign the case to another district attorney who would be sympathetic, District Attorney George Barnhill.
“Defendant Johnson chose Ware County District Attorney George Barnhill to resume the investigation, knowing he too had a personal connection to defendant Gregory McMichael and with the understanding that he would continue not to prosecute. charges despite overwhelming evidence, ”the complaint said. .
Barnhill, who is accused of telling detectives the incident was “justifiable homicide” and repeatedly making false statements about the case, also had to recuse himself because his son had previously “worked closely” with McMichael, according to the complaint.
On April 14, the case was handed over to another prosecutor, who took no action until May 5,has been made public, according to the complaint. The case was then referred to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which arrested the McMichaels the next day and Bryans later that month.
Neither Johnson, who is no longer the district attorney, nor Barnhill could be reached immediately for comment. Last May, the state attorney general opened an investigation into how Johnson and Barnhill handled the case.
The complaint also alleges that the Glynn County Police Department has a documented history of unlawfully protecting its officers. The report cited a November 2019 memorandum from the county director, which cited “a continuing culture of cover-up, lack of oversight, abuse of power and lack of accountability,” and said the ministry had not provided any change as a result of the memorandum. rectify the problem.
The lawsuit, which names McMichaels County police officers Bryan, Johnson, Barnhill and Glynn as defendants, calls for millions in damages.
“For nearly three months, Glynn County officers, the police chief and two prosecutors conspired to hide the circumstances surrounding Ahmaud’s death and to protect the men who murdered him,” the complaint reads. “And none of this would have been discovered without video footage leaked to the media, which showed Ahmaud’s gruesome and brutal murder.”