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Grand Jury Indicts 3 Men In Ahmaud Arbery's Killing As Georgia Nears Hate Crime Law

Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and William R. Bryan Jr., all white men, were indicted on felony murder and malice charges in Arbery’s killing.

Ahmaud Arbery was killed on February 23 while jogging through a neighborhood after being chased down by two white men. Credit: runwithmaud.com

A grand jury in Georgia on Wednesday indicted three white men involved in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, one day after a hate crime bill was sent to the state’s governor to sign into law. 

The Cobb County District Attorney’s Office announced that Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and William R. Bryan Jr. were indicted by Glynn County’s Grand Jury on malice and felony murder charges for Arbery’s killing. 

“This is another step forward in seeking justice for Ahmaud,” Cobb County District Attorney Joyette M. Holmes said in a statement on Wednesday. “Our team from the Cobb Judicial Circuit has been committed to effectively bringing forward the evidence in this case and today was no exception.”

The three defendants were formally indicted on charges of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. 

Arbery, 25, was killed on February 23 after father-son duo Greg and Travis McMichael saw Arbery, a Black man, jogging in their South Georgia neighborhood. Greg McMichaels told police he thought Arbery looked like a suspect in a string of burglaries in the area and asked his son to come with him. The two took a .357 Magnum handgun and a shotgun and followed Arbery.

The McMichaels pursued him in their vehicle and stopped in front of Arbery as he jogged. Arbery tried to run around the two men, but video shows Arbery being shot and killed after shouting and fighting occurred. Bryan, who lives nearby, saw the McMichaels going after Arbery and followed along, and he recorded video of the incident on his cell phone. The footage surfaced online months later.

The McMichaels were arrested on May 7—nearly three months after Arbery’s death—after video of the attack was shared on Twitter. An arraignment date for the three men has not yet been set. Bryan was arrested May 21.

The video of Arbery’s death sparked widespread outrage. He has been one of many subjects of the nationwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death in late May. 

The day before the men were indicted, the "Georgia Enhanced Penalties for Hate Crimes Act” was passed by the House and Senate and sent to Gov. Brian Kemp for a final signature. The bill would allow officials to charge and sentence defendants “who commit certain crimes which target a victim because of the victim's race, color, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, or ethnicity.”

Kemp “commends the General Assembly’s bipartisan work and will sign House Bill 426 pending legal review," his office said.

Georgia is one of four states that do not have a hate crime law. Once signed, the law will offer protections to the LGBTQ+ community as well—the first of its kind in the state. 

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, applauded the vote in a statement shared by the Georgia NAACP, saying “My family thanks everyone for not letting my son's death be in vain. I know he is still with us and this law is evidence of that and I look forward to being present when it is signed.”