The Justice Department has charged three white men with hate crimes for the death of Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot and killed in broad daylight while jogging just 2 miles from his Georgia home and whose 2020 death triggered a nationwide outcry over violence against Black people.
Three men – Travis McMichael, 35; his father, Gregory McMichael, 65; and William “Roddie” Bryan, 51 – were indicted Wednesday for targeting and threatening Arbery because of his race. Arbery was Black.
Arbery, 25, was killed in Brunswick, Georgia, on Feb. 23, 2020. Federal prosecutors said Travis and Gregory McMichael, both armed, got into a truck and chased Arbery while yelling at him. Bryan then joined the chase in his truck, and all three tried to detain Arbery against his will, prosecutors said.
All three are also charged with attempted kidnapping. The McMichaels are facing additional firearm charges. Travis McMichael is charged for shooting Arbery.
The McMichaels, who maintained that they suspected Arbery was a burglar running through their neighborhood, are already facing murder and aggravated assault charges in Georgia. The father and son were arrested in May 2020 – more than two months after Arbery’s death – after video of the incident was made public.
The Justice Department said last May that it was considering hate crime charges in Arbery’s death. A spokeswoman did not comment on why it took almost a year to indict.
The third suspect, Bryan, captured Arbery’s death on video. An autopsy showed that Arbery was shot twice in the chest and a third bullet grazed his right wrist.
A special agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation told investigators last year that he heard Travis McMichael call Arbery a racial slur as he laid on the ground with gunshot wounds.
Local prosecutors had initially refused to file murder charges, drawing widespread anger from community leaders who accused authorities of allowing Arbery’s killers to remain free.
Arbery’s death, along with those of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, who died during situations with police, fueled months of racial justice protests around the country.
The Biden administration has promised to prioritize the protection of civil rights. Citing an “urgent” need to reset hate crime enforcement strategy, Attorney General Merrick Garland, has launched a 30-day review to assess the government’s tracking capabilities and prosecution of hate crime offenses that are surging across the country.
Benjamin Crump, one of the attorneys representing Arbery’s family, said that the charges were an “important milestone in America’s uphill march toward racial justice
“Today is yet another step in the right direction as we seek justice for Ahmaud Arbery and his grieving family by holding those responsible for his death accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” he said in a statement provided to USA TODAY.