A Glynn County grand jury should decide whether charges are warranted against the two men involved in the Feb. 23 shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery on a Sunday afternoon on a neighborhood street.
That is the opinion of Atlantic Judicial Circuit District Attorney Tom Durden, the Liberty County-based DA who was assigned to review the case. Durden said he believes the evidence presented warrants a grand jury decision on whether indictments are filed against Greg McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, the two men who armed themselves and pursued Arbery to a deadly confrontation in the Satilla Shores neighborhood, according to a Glynn County police report. Greg McMichael, 64, a long-time investigator with the Brunswick Judicial Circuit DA and a former Glynn County policeman, told police he saw Arbery running down the street around 1:09 p.m. and suspected him of burglary. After pursuing him for a block to Satilla Drive and Buford Road, Travis McMichael exited the pickup truck armed with a shotgun. Travis McMichael fired three times during the ensuing struggle with Arbery, who stumbled to the pavement and died on scene.
Durden said he based his decision on a review of evidence presented in the case, which was initially investigated by the Glynn County Police Department. Durden’s decision also is based on information gathered from subsequent contact with the county police department, as well as information gathered from the FBI, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia and the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council of Georgia.
“I am of the opinion that the case should be presented to the grand jury of Glynn County for consideration of criminal charges against those involved in the death of Mr. Arbery,” Durden said in a statement issued Tuesday.
Durden noted that grand juries are not presently being called, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The freeze on empaneling grand juries will remain in effect through June 12, at least.
The shooting case has already been shifted to three DA offices, gaining an emotionally charged national audience in the process. Brunswick Judicial Circuit DA Jackie Johnson immediately claimed a conflict of interest, citing Greg McMichael’s service of more than 20 years with her office. It was next assigned to Ware County DA George E. Barnhill. However, Barnhill stepped down after a conflict in the case was raised because his son is an attorney in the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, where Greg McMichael worked.
That state Attorney General’s Office turned the case over to DA Durden on April 13. In his statement Tuesday, Durden acknowledged the pandemic-induced delay could cause more public frustration over the case. However, Durden feels it imperative that a grand jury review the facts.
“I have no control over the suspensions due to the pandemic,” Durden said in the statement. “However, I do intend to present the case to the next available grand jury in Glynn County.”