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Jury Selection Begins In Ahmaud Arbery Murder Trial

A demonstrator holds a sign at the Glynn County Courthouse as jury selection begins in the trial of the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery on October 18, 2021, in Brunswick, Georgia. | Source: Sean Rayford / Getty

UPDATED: 3:00 p.m. ET, Jan. 20

Originally published: Jan. 13

A police officer in Georgia who was busted for making a crass and callous comment online about Ahmaud Arbery‘s tragic killing has been allowed to resign before facing any real discipline for displaying behavior that suggests he has an implicit bias against Black people.

Houston County Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Urhahn quit his job just about one week after being suspended for making a derogatory remark on social media about a man who a court of law determined to have been murdered by three white vigilantes. In his letter of resignation, submitted this past Sunday, Urhahn was far from contrite and suggested he was a victim because his First Amendment rights were violated in the process.

Urhahn was effectively given a slap in the wrist and allowed to keep his job in the interim despite his off-color response to a Facebook post announcing the lifetime prison sentences for the three white men convicted of murdering Arbery. Urhahn was not immediately fired. Instead, the 20-year veteran of the Houston County Sheriff’s Office was suspended on Jan. 10.

According to the Associated Press, Urhahn criminalized Arbery — who was unarmed and racially and falsely profiled as a burglar when he was fatally lynched in broad daylight by father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan —  in his Facebook comment and suggested he deserved to be killed.

“That criminal arbery still got the death penalty though,” Urhahn wrote before deleting it. The comment was preserved via a damning screenshot.

Urhahn was given 10 days to appeal his suspension. If he didn’t, he would have been fired Thursday.

But before that privileged grace period expired, the Houston County Sheriff’s Office announced Wednesday via its Facebook page that “Urhahn chose not to appeal the decision and has resigned.”

Urhahn’s letter of resignation claimed he was “exercising my Constitutional Right to Free Speech” when “a very unfortunate series of events occurred.” He added that “the manner in which they were handled” prompted him to resign because it was something he “cannot support.” In that context, Urhahn added, continuing to work for the Houston County Sheriff’s Office “would be against who I am and what I support.”

Conversely, that would suggest that Urhahn’s borderline racist Facebook comment about Arbery is right in line with the former cop’s values and what he supports.

To be sure, there is no evidence Arbery was doing anything wrong, let alone illegal when he was tracked down, trapped on a street and shot dead on that fateful February day in 2020 in Brunswick, Georgia. That much was established at trial and validated by a jury that unanimously found the murderous trio guilty.

Ahmaud Arbery's killers: Gregory McMichael, William "Roddie" Bryan, Travis McMichael

Ahmaud Arbery’s convicted murderers, from left: Gregory McMichael, William “Roddie” Bryan, Travis McMichael. | Source: Glynn County Sheriff’s Office

If Urhahn cannot accept the legal ruling of a Superior Court-appointed jury and judge, then who’s to say that same apparent implicit bias informing his opinion of Arbery won’t also prompt him to dole out a “death penalty” on any other Black suspect who he believes is guilty of a crime?

According to local news outlet WGXA TV, Sheriff Cullen Talton informed Urhan that her violated three rules, none of which have to do with his clear and apparent anti-Black racism:

Page 5 (4A) – An officer must at all times, on and off duty, conduct him/herself in a manner which does not bring discredit to the department or county.

Page 5 (4B) – Conduct unbecoming of an officer shall include that conduct

(2) Which has a tendency to destroy public respect for employees and confidence in the department.

Read Talton’s letter to Urhahn below.

Urhahn’s rhetoric steered dangerously close to people like Candace Owens, who also criminalized Arbery in death and said that referring to him as a jogger was a “bullshit narrative.”

Sadly, members of law enforcement trying to make light of a Black man’s death at the hands of the police is nothing new. Nearly one year ago, George Floyd‘s family slammed the LAPD because some of its officers made a crude comment about the case ahead of Valentine’s Day.

Nearly nine months after Floyd’s last words were “I cannot breathe,” LAPD staffers began sharing an image of the victim of police brutality with the message, “You take my breath away.” The image was reportedly in a “valentine format” ahead of the annual holiday of love.

This is America.


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