UPDATED: 4:53 a.m. ET, May 26 —
This year’s chaos created by the coronavirus has been exacerbated in part by the shooting of an unarmed Black man who was killed by apparent vigilantes in a murder case that has captivated a nation. The events leading up to and including Ahmaud Arbery‘s killing in Georgia in February 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’ truck 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 earlier this month.
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 prosecutor 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 to 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
This video is from 11/17. Larry English called 911 on 11/18 and said he had a problem with "other people" the night before. This appears to show that day and is from English's attorney. There is no record of neighbors calling 911 this day, based off records from Glynn Co 911 pic.twitter.com/BXlyYEaBcL— Wright Gazaway (@WrightKATU) May 15, 2020
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
Police told the homeowner where #AhmaudArbery was last seen to contact Greg McMichael if his cameras caught someone on his property. McMichael in turn gathered a posse & began hunting for Ahmaud, or someone who fit his description, catching up with him on 2/23/20– killing him. pic.twitter.com/BmlmW636f5— S. Lee Merritt, Esq. (@MeritLaw) May 16, 2020
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
This is the man that set the plan in motion that led to the murder of #AhmaudArbery.— S. Lee Merritt, Esq. (@MeritLaw) May 18, 2020
ROBERT RASH is a Glynn County Police Officer.
He instructed a homeowner to contact Gregory McMichael to deal w/ trespassers.
McMichael and his son formed a posse and murdered Ahmaud Arbery. pic.twitter.com/ZqZg567Agp
5. Feb. 11, 2020
Larry English’s attorney gave me this video from Feb 11. It shows the incident outlined in my story when Travis McMichael called 911 and saw someone in the home. On 2/23, he and his father thought the Abrery was who they saw on the 11th pic.twitter.com/C2gVJCJ3xQ— Wright Gazaway (@WrightKATU) May 14, 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
This is the DA who blocked the arrest of 2 white supremacist TERRORISTS after they murdered an innocent black man execution style while he was jogging in his neighborhood— StanceGrounded (@_SJPeace_) May 9, 2020
JACKIE JOHNSON NEEDS TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR OBSTRUCTING & ENDANGERING THE LIVES OF BLACK MEN
ARREST HER pic.twitter.com/ngSIEGMCq1
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
If you’re wondering why no charges were initially filed on the murderers of #AhmaudArbery, it’s because D.A. George Barnhill immediately concluded Arbery was a criminal & that he attacked the men who were hunting him.— Benjamin Dixon (@BenjaminPDixon) May 7, 2020
This is letter Barnhill sent to the Brunswick authorities pic.twitter.com/vsGCboful7
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
Police report sheds more light on Satilla Shores shooting https://t.co/Zi6YVGTkhK— The Brunswick News (@Brunswick_News) 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
This is District Attorney, Tom Durden, who suggested taking the murder of an innocent black man to a grand jury! Oh btw this the same DA who had the video already for a MONTH and who was arrested for a DUI 2 years ago, let’s make sure he does his JOB!!! #JusticeForAhmaudArbery pic.twitter.com/UuXdlzfqEP— I said so. (@charcekage) May 6, 2020
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
We’ll never know how often Black life is taken, justice denied:— Dr. Malinda S. Smith (@MalindaSmith) May 9, 2020
“Two Weapons, a Chase, a Killing and No Charges.
A 25-year-old man running through a Georgia neighborhood ended up dead. A prosecutor argued that the pursuers should not be arrested” @nytimes https://t.co/pJA6kSK6cj
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
On what would have been his 26th birthday, people were jogging 2.23 miles in his honor to signify the date he was killed by Gregory and Travis McMichael, who racially profiled and shot the jogger in Brunswick, Georgia. #IrunwithMaud #IRunwithAhmaudhttps://t.co/V2KuBaeKjx— NewsOne (@newsone) May 9, 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
Another huge WIN for #JusticeForAhmaud! At the family’s demand— a special prosecutor will replace Tom Durden the S. GA prosecutor that sat on the case until video of Ahmaud’s murder was leaked. Joyette Holmes is out of @cobbcountygovt. Her office is being reviewed for conflicts. pic.twitter.com/rcuQ7UPOfE— S. Lee Merritt, Esq. (@MeritLaw) 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
“Ahmaud, I am so sorry. I should have stopped them,” reads the note. “I am so sorry.” The card was not signed by a name and no more information or context was provided, including when the card was left there. https://t.co/nzzY5aNple— NewsOne (@newsone) May 14, 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
Because this story wasn't bad enough now we discover Lindsay McMichael, the daughter and sister of Ahmaud Arbery’s alleged killers, posted a picture of Ahmaud’s deceased body to snapchat pic.twitter.com/RwTwzrAXAG— Reese Waters (@reesewaters) May 19, 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
Today, the GA Congressional Delegation co-signed a letter to U.S. AG William Barr and Asst AG Eric Dreiband, encouraging the use of “all possible Federal resources to achieve full justice, transparency, and accountability in the case of Mr. Ahmaud Arbery.” https://t.co/8FcMZEEKWF— John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) 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
NEW: Attorneys for Ahmaud Arbery's parents announce that the Department of Justice will be investigating Arbery's killing and why it took so long to arrest the people responsible. See their statement here: pic.twitter.com/yfcnrT5SjV— Hayley Mason (@HayleyMasonTV) May 26, 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.