The Justice Department announced the charges made against 65-year-old former police officer Gregory McMichael, his 35-year-old son Travis McMichael, and 51-year-old William “Roddie” Bryan for one count of interference with rights and with one count of attempted kidnapping.
Authorities also charged the McMichaels with using firearms to carry out acts of violence in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery while he was out jogging through a suburban neighborhood. The victim’s family’s lawyer called the February 23, 2020 attack as a vigilante murder tantamount to a lynching.
Since his inauguration three months ago, President Joe Biden’s administration has increased the enforcement of federal civil rights laws. Many activists said the laws were delayed during the previous Trump administration.
The three suspects also face state criminal charges of murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit a felony. Authorities have not yet scheduled a trial date for the three men.
Civil rights advocates criticized authorities for being slow in giving Arbery’s family justice for his murder. There were no arrests made for ten weeks after the victim’s death. Only after video footage of the incident, which showed the killing, did officials move to seek justice.
Shortly after the incident, the McMichaels told police they chased Arbery because they believed he was responsible for a series of neighborhood burglaries. They used their pickup truck to follow the young man to make a citizen’s arrest.
Video footage of the incident showed Arbery jogging down a two-lane street before being shot by two armed men with a rifle. The suspects blocked the victim’s route using their vehicle. Last year, A Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent testified in court that Bryan recollected the McMichaels letting out a racial slur, “fucking nigger,” as Arbery lay dead on the ground.
Bryan was responsible for recording the incident and sent it over to investigators before it went viral on social media in May 2020. Nationwide protests ensued after the killings of Arbery and George Floyd calling out racial injustice and police brutality in the United States, Reuters reported.
Bryan’s lawyer his client was innocent and simply a witness in the case. “Roddie Bryan has committed no crime. We look forward to a fair and speedy trial, and to the day Mr. Bryan is released and reunited with his family,” he said.