Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents charged the man who videotaped the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, 25, on a neighborhood street on Feb. 23 with murder Thursday.
Agents arrested William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., 50, and charged him with felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. He was booked into the Glynn County Detention Center.
Attorneys for Arbery’s parents — S. Lee Merritt, Benjamin Crump and L. Chris Stewart — commended the arrest in a joint statement released shortly after the GBI announced Bryan’s arrest.
“The family of Ahmaud Arbery was relieved to learn that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has today taken William ‘Roddie’ Bryan into custody. We called for his arrest from the very beginning of this process. His involvement in the murder of Mr. Arbery was obvious to us, to many around the country and after their thorough investigation, it was clear to the GBI as well. The family of Mr. Arbery is thankful for the diligence of the GBI and the way in which they tirelessly pursued the evidence in this case.”
Bryan had recently gone into hiding with family, fearing for his and their safety because of threats to his life over the video, according to his attorney, Kevin Gough.
The Glynn County Police Department’s initial report indicates Bryan played a role in the pursuit of Arbery.
It marks the third arrest in Arbery’s death following the May 7 arrests of Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son, Travis McMichael, 34, both charged with felony murder and aggravated assault. The McMichaels armed themselves and pursued Arbery while he was running on a street in the Satilla Shores neighborhood.
Travis McMichael stepped out of the truck with a shotgun and confronted Arbery, who was shot three times during a struggle for the gun.
Bryan used a cellphone to record the deadly confrontation. Steering a vehicle with his right hand and holding a cellphone to the front windshield with the other, Bryan recorded Arbery as he ran down street.
The video shows Arbery jogging around a corner and coming upon a pickup, Gregory McMichael in the truck bed and Travis McMichael driving. Travis McMichael stepped out of the truck with a shotgun as Arbery drew nearer. Arbery ran around the passenger side of the truck. A desperate struggle began for the gun as the two men met in front of the truck, all caught on video by Bryan.
Three shots can be heard on the video as the two men move in and out of the photo frame, Arbery stumbling to the pavement after the third shot.
The video created international outrage after it was leaked to the public May 5 and quickly made the rounds of social media. Local defense attorney Alan David Tucker claimed responsibility for leaking the video, saying he did so to dispel perceived misinformation and rumors.
The Glynn County Police Department’s initial report indicates Bryan played a role in the pursuit of Arbery. Gregory McMichael said he suspected Arbery of burglary after Arbery went inside a house under construction. Security video from that structure shows Arbery entering and leaving. Nothing was taken.
The property’s owner, Larry English, has said Arbery did nothing wrong. Known to friends and family as an avid runner, Arbery exited the home and continued running.
That is when Gregory McMichael, 64, went inside his home and alerted Travis McMichael, according to the police report. The two men got in the pickup truck and pursued, Gregory McMichael with a .357 magnum handgun and Travis McMichael with the shotgun.
Gregory McMichael said they drove alongside Arbery at one point and asked him to stop. McMichael told police Bryan also tried to cut Arbery off.
“McMichael stated (Arbery) turned around and began running back in the direction from which he came and (Roddie) attempted to block him which was unsuccessful,” according to the police report’s narrative.
In a statement released Monday, Gough said Bryan’s only participation in the incident was taking the video. He said Bryan passed a polygraph test attesting to his innocence of further invovlement and was cooperating fully with GBI investigators.
Gough further suggested Bryan could be “a star witness for the prosecution.” Gough made a plea to the attorneys for Arbery’s parents to please rescind a demand that Bryan be arrested.
“Roddie Bryan is not now, and has never been, more than just a witness to this shooting,” Gough said. “He is not a vigilante. Mr. Bryan has committed no crime.”
GBI investigators determined otherwise. Since the day after the arrest of Gregory and Travis McMichael, GBI Director Vic Reynolds has said the investigation remains open and that criminal charges were possible for Bryan.
The GBI declined to comment further on Bryan’s arrest.