One year after his tragic death, Ahmaud Arbery‘s mother Wanda Cooper-Jones, filed a federal lawsuit alleging that her son’s civil rights were violated. The suit also claims that law enforcement officials worked to protect those who stole her son’s life.
Cooper-Jones, through her attorney S. Lee Merritt, filed the suit on Tuesday in the Southern District of Georgia and seeks more than $1 million in damages, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The suit names the three men suspected of murdering Arbery, Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William Bryan, and also names more than a dozen law enforcement officers, former Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson and Ware County District Attorney George Barnhill.
“They unfairly and prejudicially targeted the Black man who was seen entering a property that many people were entering, they imputed criminality on [Arbery]. And they had the opportunity to avoid this from happening to tell citizens that it is not appropriate to engage in vigilantism,” Merritt told First Coast News.
“We wanted to let the [family] know that the community, their attorneys, the legal system is still going to be held accountable and that we’re still fighting for them a year later.”
Cooper-Jones also accuses the McMichaels of using a racial slur against her son in his last moments of life and as well as the use of excessive force, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and a failure to properly train officers.
The McMichaels and Bryan await trial in the murder case and plead not guilty to felony murder charges.
Arbery was killed on Feb. 23, 2020 after he took a routine jog through a largely white neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia.
A chilling video taken by Bryan shows the last moments of Arbery’s life, where he was accosted by the McMichaels over false accusations regarding a string of break-ins in the neighborhood. Both Johnson and Barnhill advised against making arrests to local law enforcement during their initial handling of the case.
It was only after the release of the video weeks after Arbery’s death that law enforcement officials arrested and charged the McMichaels and Bryan.
Prior to the suit’s announcement Cooper-Jones reflected on the year since her son’s life was stolen.
“What happened in February last year changed my life. When I lost Ahmaud, I lost a part of myself,” Cooper-Jones said.
You can read the full lawsuit here.