UPDATED: 5:00 a.m. ET, Feb. 23, 2021
Originally published: May 26, 2020
The killing of Ahmaud Arbery was seemingly covered up twice: once by his accused murderers and their apparent accomplices in law enforcement, and once by the subsequent high-profile deaths of other unarmed Black people to the hands of preventable police violence. But taken together, the deaths of Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd — in that order — have changed the world amid ongoing protests for criminal justice reform and heightened awareness of white supremacy.
One year later, ahead of the pending murder trial, Arbery’s mother refuses chooses to recognize the positive instead of allowing herself to be consumed by the obvious negative on the bad on the grim anniversary of her son’s death at the young age of 25.
“It still hurts that I lost Ahmaud,” Wanda Cooper-Jones told the Atlanta Journal Constituion in an interview published Monday. “Knowing that Ahmaud was possibly involved in change tells me he didn’t lose his life in vain.”
The events leading up to and including Arbery’s killing in Georgia on Feb. 23, 2020, have been unfolding in a complicated and tangled timeline amplified by an explosive collision of the South’s good old boy network with a very focused and resolute movement for Black lives.
Even before video footage of the shooting leaked on social media, the imagery associated with the horrific narrative surrounding the shooting — father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael racially profiled Arbery as a burglar, got their guns, hopped in their truck, trapped him and shot him in the middle of a road in broad daylight — harkened back to harrowing tales of racist white mob justice in the Jim Crow South.
To say that the story has developed slowly would be an understatement. After all, the McMichaels were arrested and charged with murder more than two months after Arbery was killed. It would take another two weeks before William “Roddie” Bryan, the man who filmed the shooting, would meet the same fate and be taken into custody and also be charged with felony murder along with criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. That last charge likely stemmed from his role in using the vehicle he was in to trap Arbery between his and the McMichaels’ trucks as seen on the video recorded by Bryan that was shown to the world when it leaked — inexplicably by Gregory McMichaels — and posted to social media in May.
The shooting has resulted in a series of Georgia’s district attorneys playing an unfortunate game of hot potato with the case, which has been marred from the start with a web of conflicts of interest from prosecutors whose associations with each other and the accused murderers have contributed to a massive delay of justice.
One of the central themes emerging from the case is Georgia’s glaring lack of hate crime laws. The case merits a hate crime charge, lawyers representing Arbery’s family have maintained. Civil rights attorneys S. Lee Merritt and Ben Crump have been calling for the Department of Justice to get involved to determine whether federal hate crime charges are warranted against Gregory McMichael, who actually pulled the trigger and killed Arbery.
Another persistent theme in the case has been the revelation of an incestuous and possibly corrupt relationship between multiple district attorneys’ offices across the state of Georgia, resulting in three prosecutors being forced to recuse themselves because of conflicts of interest.
Because of those themes, all 14 of Georgia’s Congressional representatives sent a letter last year to then-U.S. Attorney General William Barr encouraging the use of “all possible Federal resources to achieve full justice, transparency, and accountability in the case of Mr. Ahmaud Arbery.”
There was also the apparent campaign to criminalize Arbery in death to contend with, as a flurry of reputation-damaging yet ultimately irrelevant references to his past encounters with law enforcement that could never justify the killing of an unarmed man fueled by racist suspicions. That was the case when a video of police harassing Arbery from 2017 was widely published. This was the same police department that decided against making any arrests in Arbery’s killing until federal intervention pressured them to do so more than two months later.
Keep reading to find a complete and detailed timeline of the events that led up to Arbery’s shooting and those that have transpired since as his family works to achieve some semblance of justice in their loved one’s killing committed in unabashed cold blood.
1. October 2019
The owner of the property that Gregory and Travis McMichael purportedly ultimately suspected Ahmaud Arbery of burglarizing was alerted by a motion-activated camera that people were going onto the construction site. Larry English called and texted the police to investigate but nothing had been taken and no one was found there when they responded.
2. November 2019
English’s surveillance camera captures multiple people walking up to and onto the property out of apparent curiosity. A white couple is seen on the footage but not anyone resembling Arbery.
3. Dec. 20, 2019
The Glynn County Police Department sends a text message to Larry English advising him to contact his property’s neighbor, Gregory McMichael, if his surveillance camera showed any suspicious activity at the site. Lawyers representing Arbery’s family say this is evidence that Glynn County Police Officer Robert Rash empowered the McMichaels to act as vigilantes.
who is identified as “retired Law Enforcement
4. Dec. 20, 2019
5. Feb. 11, 2020
Surveillance footage shows Arbery inside the home under construction. Travis McMichael called 911 to report it. Property owner Larry English said he also got an alert from his motion-detecting camera that same night. This is purportedly the incident that gave the McMichaels their first point of reference to racially profile Arbery on the day they confronted and killed him.
6. Feb. 23Source:Getty
Ahmaud Arbery is killed in the middle of a road in broad daylight after the McMichaels purportedly suspect him as a burglar, arm themselves, hop in their truck and chase him, trap him, ambush him and shoot him to death.
Pictured: A young girl looks at a memorial for Ahmaud Arbery near where he was shot and killed in Brunswick, Georgia.
7. Feb. 27, 2020
Brunswick district attorney, Jackie L. Johnson, recuses herself from the case because she said that Gregory McMichael was an investigator in her office until he retired last year.
8. Feb. 27, 2020
A copy of Johnson’s letter recusing herself.
9. Feb. 29, 2020Source:Getty
Ahmaud Arbery is buried at his funeral.
Pictured: Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, weeps while people gather to honor her son in Brunswick, Georgia, on May 9, 2020.
10. March 2020
The case is referred to Waycross District Attorney George E. Barnhill, who declines to bring charges against the McMichaels, tells police he believes the shooting was justifiable and describes Arbery as a criminal.
11. April 2, 2020
The Brunswick News publishes its report on the McMichaels shooting Arbery after public records request was granted for access to the Glynn County Police Department’s data.
12. April 3, 2020
George Barnhill writes a letter to Glynn County Police Department saying he will recuse himself from the case because his son used to work with Gregory McMichael. Barnhill also goes out of his way to repeat his opinion that the McMichaels should not be arrested in the case.
Barnhill’s letter also makes a reference to William “Roddy” Bryan, the man who filmed the shooting and was alleged to be a part of what Barnhill called the “hot pursuit of a burglary suspect.”
13. April 13
The case gets transferred to District Attorney Tom Durden of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit, the third prosecutor to be given the case in less than two months since Arbery’s shooting. Durden refers the case to a grand jury even though grand juries had been temporarily suspended because of social distance guidelines associated with the coronavirus. Durden had also seen the
14. April 26, 2020
The New York Times publishes its first report on the shooting, bringing national attention to the case.
15. April 28, 2020
Activists, community leaders and Georgia’s NAACP chapter call for Durden to arrest the McMichaels for Arbery’s murder.
16. May 5, 2020
A graphic video of the McMichaels ambushing and shooting Arbery in the middle of a road in broad daylight is posted to social media. It is later revealed that Gregory McMichael leaked the footage of himself and his son under the inexplicable premise that it could somehow exonerate him.
17. May 5, 2020
Durden asks for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate Arbery’s killing as well as who leaked the video.
18. May 7, 2020
Gregory and Travis McMichael are arrested and charged with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.
19. May 8, 2020
Protesters demonstrate in Brunswick, Georgia, for justice on what would have been Ahmaud Arbery’s 26th birthday.
20. May 8, 2020
In honor of Ahmaud Arbery’s birthday, people and organizations across social media organized to run 2.23 miles and use the hashtag #IRunWithMaud. The mileage number coincides with the date Arbery was killed on Feb. 23, 2020.
21. May 9, 2020Source:Getty
Armed members of the Black Panther Party patrol the white neighborhood where Ahmaud Arbery was killed as part of a larger demonstration demanding justice in the killing.
22. May 10, 2020
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr asks the Justice Department to investigate the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery.
23. May 11, 2020
Carr appoints Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes, a Black woman and the first African American to serve in that role, to prosecute the case. Carr also asks the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate district attorneys Barnhill and Johnson for possible prosecutorial misconduct.
24. May 12, 2020Source:Twitter
The full graphic video of Arbery being hunted by the McMichaels and killed is made public.
On the same day, Arbery’s autopsy results are made public and found that he was shot twice in the chest and once on his wrist. It also determined there were no drugs or alcohol in Arbery’s system at the time of his death. The autopsy declared that Arbery’s manner of death was a homicide.
25. May 13, 2020
An anonymous note was found at a makeshift memorial at the site where Arbery was killed. It read, “Ahmaud, I am so sorry. I should have stopped them. I am so sorry.” The note prompted lawyers representing Arbery’s family to demand to know who left it.
It is later determined that the person who left the note at the roadside memorial just wanted to share condolences.
26. May 14, 2020Source:Getty
Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son, Travis McMichael, 34, are formally charged with murder and aggravated assault.
27. May 18, 2020
It is reported that Lindsey McMichael, the sister of Ahmaud Arbery murder suspect Travis McMichael, posted a graphic photo of Arbery’s dead body lying on the ground to one of her social media accounts. She downplays her actions by explaining she is a “true crime fan.”
28. May 18, 2020
The lawyer for William “Roddie” Bryan, the man who recorded the footage of Arbery’s killing, announces his client took a lie detector test after calls grew for him to be arrested. It was unclear how the lie detector test would have exonerated Bryan.
29. May 20, 2020Source:Getty
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation executes a search warrant at the McMichaels’ home.
Pictured: Protesters demonstrate in the Satilla Shores neighborhood where Gregory and Travis McMichael live and where Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed in Brunswick, Georgia.
30. May 20, 2020
All 14 of Georgia’s Congressional representatives signed a letter sent to U.S. Attorney General William Barr to encourage the use of “all possible Federal resources to achieve full justice, transparency, and accountability in the case of Mr. Ahmaud Arbery.”
31. May 21, 2020Source:WJAX
William “Roddy” Bryan, the man who filmed the McMichaels’ ambush and killing of Ahmaud Arbery, is arrested on charges of felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced.
32. May 25, 2020
Attorneys for Ahmaud Arbery’s family announced that his parents met with the Department of Justice, which CNN reported would be investigated as a hate crime.
33. June 2020
Lee Merritt tweeted a photo of him with Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, to address a report that civil rights leaders took umbrage at a late-night call requesting they be present when Donald Trump signed an executive order on criminal justice.
April Ryan tweeted early that morning of June 16, 2020, that civil rights leaders were “OUTRAGED” Arbery’s family members and their lawyer were “expected” to be at the White House alongside Trump. Ryan, the then-White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, described the event as a “photo op.”
34. June 17, 2020Source:WJAX
William “Roddy” Bryan, who filmed Arbery’s shooting, was denied bail as he and the other two suspected white supremacists involved in the vigilante shooting all pleaded not guilty to murder on July 17, 2020.
Bryan also requested to remove the prosecutor, Holmes, from the case as well as a gag order for Arbery’s mother. It was all denied.
That same day, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation tweeted that Bryan was also the subject of a child molestation investigation. The GBI described the investigation as “active and ongoing.”
35. November 2020Source:Getty
Travis McMichael was described in court as a raging racist by the defense’s witnesses as well as the prosecution when the accused murderer’s “best friend” admitted under oath that the two of them “exchanged text messages littered with racist tropes and ugly stereotypes about African-Americans and Asians,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The revelation was the latest evidence that McMichael likely had racist motivations in going after Arbery.
Co-defendant Bryan also told investigators that McMichael called Arbery a “fucking nigger” after shooting the jogger three times at close range with a shotgun.
36. December 2020
Newly released body camera footage from a police officer who responded to the scene where Ahmaud Arbery was killed revealed that one of the accused murderers shamelessly tried to blame the Black jogger for provoking his own shooting.
On the video, Travis McMichael is seen “splattered with blood” while speaking to the unidentified Glynn County police officer on Feb. 23, 2020, in Brunswick.
The video also showed McMichael’s father suggesting to the officer that he regretted not being the one to shoot Arbery over unsubstantiated claims of burglary inspired by their racial profiling of the jogger.
“(Travis) had no choice, man” Gregory McMichael told the cop before adding later: “To be honest with you if I could’ve shot the guy I would’ve shot him myself.” He said without proof that Arbery made “frequent trips to the neighborhood … breaking into places.”
The bodycam footage shows Bryan apparently pretending he had second thoughts surrounding the matter.
”Should we have been chasing him?” he asked. “I don’t know.”
37. January 2021Source:Getty
William “Roddie” Bryan — who filmed his buddies chase down Arbery in a truck, trap him and shoot him in broad daylight in the middle of a road because they racially and falsely profiled the jogger as a burglar — had his request for bail denied once again after a judge heard his latest reason why he wanted to be released: high blood pressure.
38. February 2021Source:Getty
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announced reform surrounding a Civil War-era citizens arrest law that was initially cited as a reason to not pursue charges against the killers of Ahmaud Arbery.
With some exceptions, the proposed bill would prevent private citizens from conducting arrests on others. The new bill, proposed by Kemp, states that a detained person must be released if authorities do not arrive within an hour.
“Ahmaud was a victim of vigilante-style of violence that has no place in Georgia,” Kemp said. “And some tried to justify the actions of his killers by claiming they had the protection of an antiquated law that is ripe for abuse.”
39. Feb. 23, 2021Source:Getty
Wanda Cooper-Jones, mother of Ahmaud Arbery, spoke to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ahead of the one-year mark of her son’s killing.
She continued: “He’s never going to come back. Not next week, not next month, not next year. I’m just finally getting that reality check.”