Two local elected officials say that a Georgia district attorney refused to allow police to make arrests after the death of Ahmaud Arbery, with the controversy surrounding his death now finding its way to investigators.
Arbery was killed in a February 23 shooting in the coastal community of Brunswick. Footage released this week showed him running down a road when he encountered 34-year-old Travis McMichael and his father, 64-year-old Gregory McMichael, who had stopped their pickup truck and were both holding guns. A struggle ensued, and Arbery was shot to death.
The father and son did not deny shooting the Georgia man but said they were acting in self-defense and claimed that Arbery had attacked them. The men said they were trying to conduct a citizen’s arrest — suspecting Arbery of committing burglaries in the neighborhood — but family members said that he was just taking a daily jog.
Pressure is now growing on District Attorney Jackie Johnson, who is accused of telling police not to make arrests in the case. As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, Glynn County commissioner Peter Murphy said he spoke directly to police about the fatal shooting, saying that officers who were at the scene of the incident believed there was probable cause to arrest the men — until Johnson’s office told them not to.
Fellow Glynn County commissioner Allen Booker said that Johnson prevented the arrest to protect the elder McMichael, who had worked as an investigator in the district attorney’s office.
“The police at the scene went to her, saying they were ready to arrest both of them. These were the police at the scene who had done the investigation,” said Booker, who noted that he talked to police officers. “She shut them down to protect her friend McMichael.”
As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, Johnson would recuse herself days after the shooting. Her office has pushed back against assertions that she prevented arrests from being made, saying in a statement to WSB-TV that it was the fault of the police department that neither man was arrested.
“It is unfortunate that Commissioners Murphy and Booker have chosen to make false accusations against District Attorney Jackie Johnson in an attempt to make excuses and ignore the problems at the Glynn County Police Department, for which they are ultimately responsible,” Johnson’s office said.
The statement added that acting Police Chief Jay Wiggins said it was a mistake that the former chief, John Powell, did not immediately call in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate Arbery’s shooting.
Both Travis and Gregory McMichael were arrested this week by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.