Ahmaud Arbery shooting: A timeline of the case

Georgia's attorney general asked the Justice Department to investigate the handling of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.
Image: Ahmaud Arbery in an undated family photo.
Ahmaud Arbery in an undated family photo.Courtesy of the Arbery family

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By Janelle Griffith

A video of the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia has thrust the case into the national spotlight, prompting widespread outrage and raising concerns about racial inequities in the justice system.

Here is a timeline of events in the case.

Feb. 23: Ahmaud Arbery is shot dead

Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, was shot to death on Feb. 23 in Brunswick — a coastal city about midway between Savannah, Georgia, and Jacksonville, Florida — after being followed by Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34, his son, in their pickup truck. The McMichaels are white.

Arbery's family says he was out jogging, while the McMichaels have said they thought he was a burglar, according to the Glynn County police report. Gregory McMichael armed himself with a .357 Magnum and his son grabbed a shotgun after Gregory McMichael saw Arbery "hauling ass" down the street, the police report said. According to the report, a third man — later identified as a neighbor, William Bryan — tried to block Arbery during the pursuit.

Gregory McMichael told police that he thought Arbery was a burglar who had recently been targeting the neighborhood. The McMichaels told police that when they caught up with Arbery, he attacked Travis McMichael, who fired his weapon in self-defense.

The Brunswick News, citing documents obtained through a public records request, reported that there had been just one confirmed burglary in the neighborhood from Jan. 1 to Feb. 23: the theft of a handgun from an unlocked truck parked outside Travis McMichael's house on Jan. 1.

Feb. 27: The first prosecutor recuses herself

On Feb. 27, the Brunswick area district attorney, Jackie Johnson, recused herself from the case, noting that Gregory McMichael, a former Glynn County police officer, had been an investigator in her office for more than 30 years before he retired in May 2019.

April 2: The Brunswick News publishes details of the police investigation

On April 2, The Brunswick News published an online article with details from the Glynn County police report.

Gregory McMichael said that after the pursuit, Arbery began to "violently attack" Travis McMichael and that the two "started fighting over the shotgun, at which point Travis fired a shot and then a second later there was a second shot."

Gregory McMichael said Arbery "fell face down on the pavement with his hand under his body."

He told police he then searched Arbery for a gun, the report said. The report ends without stating whether Arbery had a gun. Arbery's family says he was unarmed.

April 3: A second prosecutor recuses after finding no reason to charge the McMichaels

George Barnhill, one of the prosecutors who first handled the case, defended the actions of the McMichaels and Bryan, who recorded a video of the shooting. In a letter recusing himself, addressed to a Glynn County police captain, Barnhill said the three had "solid first hand probable cause" to pursue Arbery, a "burglary suspect," and stop him. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the letter was issued April 3.

"It appears their intent was to stop and hold this criminal suspect until law enforcement arrived," he wrote.

Barnhill, who said he watched the video, said Travis McMichael "was allowed to use deadly force to protect himself" under state law because Arbery had initiated the fight and grabbed the shotgun.

April 13: A third prosecutor takes over the case

The case was transferred to Thomas Durden, the district attorney for Georgia's Atlantic Judicial Circuit, "on or about" April 13, according to a letter Durden released May 5. He announced his intention to present the case to the next available Glynn County grand jury "for the consideration of criminal charges against those involved in the death of Mr. Arbery."

May 5: Video of shooting emerges online

A lawyer for Arbery's family on May 5 released a video that appears to show the fatal shooting and an altercation in the moments before.

In the video, posted by Arbery family attorney Lee Merritt, Arbery is seen jogging down a road as a white pickup truck is stopped in front of him. Arbery runs around the vehicle, and a shot is fired. The video then shows Arbery and another man appearing to tussle as two more shots are fired.

NBC News does not know what occurred before the events shown in the video.

The same day, Durden, the outside prosecutor, said he wanted to send the case to a grand jury to decide whether to bring charges. Lawyers for the Arbery family said authorities did not need to wait for a grand jury to make arrests.

"There are a number of agencies that can go out and make these arrests today," Merritt said. "That is our demand. The men who murdered Ahmaud should be prosecuted."

Merritt called on Durden to issue an arrest warrant and to indict Gregory and Travis McMichael.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced that it would be taking over the case at Durden's request.

May 6-7: Celebrities express outrage over Arbery's death

Scores of celebrities expressed outrage on social media after the video emerged.

NBA star LeBron James, acclaimed film director Ava DuVernay, actress Gabrielle Union, reality television star Kim Kardashian West and singer Taylor Swift were among those to plead for justice.

Gregory McMichael, left, and his son Travis McMichael.Glynn County Detention Center via AP

May 7: Gregory and Travis McMichael are arrested

The GBI announced that the McMichaels had been arrested on charges of murder and aggravated assault. The McMichaels could not be reached for comment. It was unclear whether they had obtained attorneys.

May 8: Supporters rally on Arbery's birthday

Arbery would have turned 26. Supporters documented 2.23-mile runs and walks on his birthday to commemorate the date he was killed using the hashtags #runwithmaud and #IRunWithMaud.

May 8: Arbery's dad says son 'didn't deserve to go out like that'

Arbery's father, Marcus Arbery Sr., said of his son's death, "He didn't deserve to go out like that."

"He just loved people. He's the kind of young man that if he had a dollar, and you asked him for that $1, he would give it to you," Arbery said. "His heart was just bigger than life."

His father said the family would have celebrated his son's 26th birthday with a cookout.

He also said he was trying to maintain his composure for the sake of his family.

"It's hurtful," he said. "I just got to be strong for the rest of my family. I got to be strong for my two children. I just got to be strong for their mama, too."

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May 8: Neighbor who recorded video also being investigated

A day after the McMichaels were arrested, the head of the GBI said William "Roddie" Bryan, the neighbor who recorded the video, was also being investigated.

"We're going to go wherever the evidence takes us," GBI Director Vic Reynolds said at a news conference. "Let's say, hypothetically, if we believe tomorrow or in a week or three weeks there's probable cause for an arrest, then we'll do it. If we don't believe there is, then we won't."

Bryan has not been charged. Asked about the possibility that the McMichaels could be prosecuted for a hate crime, Reynolds noted that Georgia is one of few states without a hate crime law.

May 8: Neighbor of suspects who recorded video receiving threats, lawyer says

Attorney Kevin Gough said his client, Bryan, has fully cooperated with the investigation and was simply "a witness to the tragic shooting."

Bryan was in his yard in Brunswick on Feb. 23 when he saw Arbery running, followed by a white pickup truck, Gough said.

Gough said Bryan got into his car and followed because he wanted to get a photo of Arbery.

"There had been a number of crimes in the neighborhood, and he didn't recognize him, and a vehicle that he did recognize was following him," the attorney said.

He said Bryan "voluntarily went to the Glynn County Police Department, where he answered all the questions they had for him, without a lawyer, during a lengthy interview."

Gough said Bryan allowed police to search his cellphone and was under the impression that officers had made a copy of everything they needed. Bryan was unaware that he was being investigated until the GBI announced it, his attorney said.

Gough said that Bryan and his family had received threats and that he wanted the GBI to review the materials in its possession and clear his client's name.

"Roddie is a family man, NASCAR fan, and enjoys rock 'n' roll," the attorney said. "He is not now, and never has been, a vigilante."

May 9: Arbery's mother relieved about arrests: 'That's the moment that I had been waiting on'

Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said she was about to give up hope when she learned that the McMichaels had been arrested.

"I was in a numb state because I had waited for ... two months and two weeks," Cooper-Jones said.

Cooper-Jones recalled waiting for more than two months to get an update on her son's case.

The arrests of the McMichaels are the first step, Cooper-Jones said. She wants to see them convicted and sentenced to prison.

"I wish the world would have gotten the chance to know Ahmaud, to really truly love Ahmaud," she said.

May 9: Video appears to show Arbery entering a construction site just before he was killed

Video from the day of Arbery's death, obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, shows a person matching Arbery's description walking up to a house under construction, entering and then leaving shortly after.

Attorneys for Arbery's parents said the video "is consistent with the evidence already known to us."

The lawyers said the person in the video remains on the property for under three minutes before continuing to jog down the road.

"Ahmaud did not take anything from the construction site," the family's lawyers said in a statement. "He did not cause any damage to the property. He remained for a brief period of time and was not instructed by anyone 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."

The GBI confirmed that it was reviewing the video but added that it had seen it before arresting and charging the McMichaels.

May 10: Georgia attorney general asks for federal investigation

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr asked the Justice Department to investigate the handling of the killing.

Attorneys for Arbery's parents applauded Carr for reaching out to federal officials.

"We have requested the involvement of the DOJ since we first took this case," Merritt and fellow attorneys Benjamin Crump and L. Chris Stewart said in a statement. "There are far too many questions about how this case was handled and why it took 74 days for two of the killers to be arrested and charged in Mr. Arbery's death."

May 11: Justice Department to consider possible federal hate crime charges in Arbery shooting

The Justice Department said it would consider a request by Georgia's attorney general to review the shooting and assess whether federal hate crime charges should be pursued.

May 11: Arbery killing switched to a fourth prosecutor

The state's top prosecutor appointed another district attorney to take over the case. Joyette Holmes of the Cobb County Judicial Circuit became the fourth prosecutor to oversee it.

"District Attorney Holmes is a respected attorney with experience, both as a lawyer and a judge, and the Cobb County District Attorney's office has the resources, personnel and experience to lead this prosecution and ensure justice is done," Carr, the attorney general, said in a statement.

May 12: Georgia Bureau of Investigation receives request from state attorney general to investigate handling of case

Georgia’s attorney general has asked state law officers to investigate allegations of misconduct by local prosecutors in the death of Arbery, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced Tuesday. The GBI said Attorney General Chris Carr requested the investigation of how the district attorney offices in Brunswick and Waycross handled the Feb. 23 fatal shooting.