2 Men Arrested And Charged In Fatal Shooting Of Ahmaud Arbery
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
In Brunswick, Ga., today, a huge crowd rallied on what would have been Ahmaud Arbery's 26th birthday. Arbery, who was black, was shot and killed while jogging in February. Two white men were arrested and charged with his murder yesterday. As Georgia Public Broadcasting's Emily Jones reports, today's rally brought a mix of grief, relief and frustration. And a note - this story includes an offensive racial slur.
EMILY JONES, BYLINE: The arrest of father and son, Gregory and Travis McMichael, more than 10 weeks after the shooting death inspired celebration in southeast Georgia last night, and it continued today.
JONES: But for Ahmaud Arbery's family, the event was more a moment of grief. His aunt Kimberly Arbery broke down crying as she remembered her nephew.
KIMBERLY ARBERY: Keep my family in y'all prayers. They always told me I was the strong of my family. But this time now, it's hard.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: We love you, Kim.
JONES: It was hard for several of Arbery's family members to speak at the rally. But civil rights leader Francys Johnson of the New Georgia Project saw reason for hope in the crowd.
FRANCYS JOHNSON: And it's in the faces of you who stand here today, black people and white people and everyone in between who can call this for what it was - a straight-up [expletive] lynching.
JONES: Some people were holding up signs that said, we want answers; we want convictions. Another theme of the rally was that the arrests are just one step in what's expected to be a lengthy court case. Khalif Edwards was a friend of Arbery's.
KHALIF EDWARDS: I'm just going to sit back and pray and hope that the justice system does what they're put in place to do, and that's to show justice and have those people, you know, get in trouble for what they did wrong.
JONES: But many at the rally don't have a lot of faith in the Glynn County justice system. They say this shooting and the long-delayed arrests are not the first injustice here. People in the community are calling for the local district attorney, Jackie Johnson, to step down. One of the men arrested, Gregory McMichael, worked for more than 20 years as an investigator in the DA's office. Because of that, Johnson removed herself from the case early on, and the second DA assigned to the case removed himself at the family's request.
It was only the third DA on the case who brought in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday. That was the same day a graphic cellphone video became public, showing the altercation and shooting of Arbery. Vic Reynolds heads the GBI and said today his agency could not get involved until it was formally requested to do so.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
VIC REYNOLDS: In a perfect world, would we prefer to have been asked to become involved in February? Of course. But sometimes it isn't a perfect world.
JONES: The arrests of the McMichaels came just two days after the GBI stepped in. They were charged with murder and aggravated assault but not a hate crime. Georgia is one of the few states that does not have a hate crime law. Reynolds says more arrests could come.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
REYNOLDS: We're going to go wherever the evidence takes us. 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.
JONES: Reynolds says, for now, it's still an open investigation.
For NPR News, I'm Emily Jones in Brunswick, Ga.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.