ATLANTA — The killing of Ahmaud Arbery in southeast Georgia in February, and his death's treatment by law enforcement and the judicial system, has caused a national outcry in recent weeks.
The issue at the heart of the case is that application of the law - why two white men, Travis McMichael and his father Gregory McMichael, were able to stop a black man on the street on their own suspicions and shoot him dead, then avoid arrest themselves for two months; and why the case passed through two district attorneys before any charges were filed.
11Alive Investigator Faith Abubéy has obtained more than 200 documents in Glynn County records that offer new details into how the prosecutors and police acted in the course of the case - that shed light on their application of the law.
Here is some of what she uncovered:
- In an email explaining why he was recusing himself from the Arbery case, Waycross DA George Barnhill - who has been criticized for saying the shooting was "justified" - casually mentions Arbery's family "are not strangers to the local criminal justice system." He goes on to cite Arbery's past criminal records and those of his family members.
- County officials once asked "should we say that COVID-19 has slowed the process in the case?" They ultimately decided, "I’m not sure we can substantiate that” & “I hesitate to mention COVID-19 as it could be seen as a convenient excuse."
- On May 10, when Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr requested the federal Department of Justice to investigate the handling of the case, Glynn County commissioners shared the link to the news release, and said "GREAT NEWS!!!!!! Paybacks are hell. No one more deserving than Ms. JJ." "Huge game changer and for more than just one game." One of the district attorneys under investigation has those initials - Brunswick DA Jackie Johnson. It is not possible, however, to confirm if that's who was being referenced.
- (A Glynn County commissioner has told 11Alive that the Glynn County Police Department contacted the district attorney's office within a day or two after the shooting and were told by "representatives of the DA's office" - not the DA herself - not to make arrests in the case. Johnson's office issued a lengthy denial in that article and framed the commissioner's claims as "excuses (to) ignore the problems at the Glynn County Police Department, for which they are ultimately responsible." The article was published two days before the investigation against Johnson and another DA was announced.)
- Hundreds of people called Glynn County law enforcement agencies to "demand justice" for Ahmaud Arbery. There are at least 15 pages of notes like this.
- Arbery's mom told media police contacted her to tell her that he had been shot during a break-in."I received a call via my cellphone about 6:30 p.m. that afternoon. The caller identified himself as an investigator for the Glynn County Police Department. His name was Shawn Lowrey. He told me he was actually at my front door. I explained to him that I wasn't available. Then he went on to share that he needed to tell me something that he didn't want to share with me over the phone. But he went on to say that Ahmaud had been involved in a break-in and in the midst of the burglary, Ahmaud was confronted by the homeowner and during that confrontation, there was a tussle over the handgun and Ahmaud was shot and killed." Police dispute that account - but it appears at some point, the now former police chief also told the county manager a similar story to what Arbery's mother said. County manager writing - response is from a police captain
- Records show a Glynn County officer, S. Lowrey, did respond respond to the scene on Feb. 23. State police records show the Glynn County department employs an officer named Stephan Lowrey. Police dispute that any officer, Lowrey or otherwise, told Arbery's mother he was "shot in the yard of the house he was breaking into."
- Regarding why police felt the need to include the district attorney hours after the shooting, while simultaneously deciding not to call the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, here's how a police captain explains it: #AhmaudArbery
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