Georgia AG to look into how Arbery case was handled

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr will examine Ahmaud Arbery’s murder investigation, a spokesperson for Carr confirmed to CBS News on Saturday. In a statement, Carr said that he will look into how the case was handled “from the outset.”

“The family, the community and the state of Georgia deserve answers. We need to know exactly what happened, and we will be working to find those answers,” Carr said in his statement.

Arbery, 25, was shot and killed while jogging in Brunswick, Georgia, on February 23. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested and charged Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son, Travis McMichael, 34, for the murder and aggravated assault this week — days after a cellphone video showing two men confronting and shooting Arbery surfaced. The McMichaels say they were acting in self-defense. 

The elder McMichael is a former law enforcement officer who used to work for the local district attorney, Jackie Johnson. Carr told Fox News’ Dana Perino on Saturday that he first became aware of the case on February 27, when Johnson notified his office of her conflict of interest. 

“Our office’s role is to make sure that we assign another district attorney,” Carr said. In Georgia, district attorneys are the “constitutional authority” that handle felony crimes, according to Carr. “So when there’s a conflict we appoint a conflict district attorney, which is a local district attorney,” he said. “So on the 27th of February that’s what we did, and that’s when our office was first notified.” 

Due to continued conflicts of interest, the case is now on its third prosecutor, who said this week that he will ask a grand jury to bring charges against the McMichaels.

Two county commissioners told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week that Johnson’s office blocked police from arresting the McMichaels after the shooting. “The police at the scene went to (Johnson), saying they were ready to arrest both of them. These were the police at the scene who had done the investigation,” Commissioner Allen Booker, who has spoken with Glynn County police, told the newspaper. “She shut them down to protect her friend McMichael.”

When asked why it took months to arrest the McMichaels, the attorney general said Saturday: “There’s a lot of questions that are being asked, and I’m asking the same thing.” 

“What I do know is that once the state was asked to participate it took 48 hours,” he said of the arrests. 

Vic Reynolds, Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), said at a press conference on Friday that his agency was first brought into the investigation on Tuesday at the request of District Attorney Tom Durden, who will be prosecuting the case,

“Please understand that although there was an investigation conducted by the Glynn County Police Department at the time of the incident over two months ago, the GBI was not a part of that investigation,” GBI said in a Thursday press release. “We are conducting an independent investigation and are two days into it.”

Reynolds said Friday that “probable cause was clear to our agents pretty quickly,” allowing them to swiftly arrest the McMichaels.

Another Glynn County commissioner, Peter Murphy, told The Washington Post that he too was told by police officials that they were instructed by Johnson’s office not to make arrests. Murphy said he also plans to investigate the prosecutors and police agencies involved in Arbery’s case. 

A spokesperson for Carr did not respond to questions about whether the Attorney General would work with the commissioner in his investigation, but said “more details” will come next week. 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Saturday that the GBI is reviewing “additional footage” related to the case. According to the newspaper, the footage appears to show a man matching Arbery’s description enter the garage of a home under construction, then leave the property less than five minutes later. 

A witness called 911 during that same time to report that a man was in the house under construction, AJC reported. Six minutes later, a separate caller told 911: “There’s a black male running down the street.” 

In response to the report, GBI confirmed in a press release Saturday that it was reviewing additional footage, but that it is not new and was seen by GBI before it arrested Gregory and Travis McMichael. 

Attorney Lee Merritt, who represents Arbery’s mother, said in a statement Saturday that his office has also reviewed the footage, and that it is consistent with the evidence already known to them.

“Ahmaud Arbery was out for a jog. He stopped by a property under construction where he engaged in no illegal activity and remained for only a brief period,” Merritt said. “Ahmaud did not take anything from the construction site. He did not cause any damage to the property. He remained for a brief period of time and was not instructed by any one to leave but rather left on his own accord to continue his jog.”

“Ahmaud’s actions at this empty home under construction were in no way a felony under Georgia law,” reads the statement. “This video confirms that Mr. Arbery’s murder was not justified and the McMichael’s chase and use of force was illegal. We reiterate, Ahmaud Arbery did not take part in ANY felony, had no illegal substances in his system, was not armed yet was shot three times with a shotgun while jogging.”

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