When police arrived to investigate a shooting death Sunday afternoon in Satilla Shores, three men allegedly were standing over the body of the deceased man, including a retired veteran county law enforcement investigator, said George Barnhill, district attorney for the Waycross Judicial Circuit.
Barnhill said Greg McMichael and his adult son, Travis McMichael, were two of the three men on the scene when Glynn County police responded to the 1:08 p.m. report of a shooting at the intersection of Satilla Drive and Holmes Road. He said one or more of three men had guns, but he did not identify the armed men.
“I think more than one person was armed,” Barnhill said.
Ahmaud Arbery, 25, of Brunswick, suffered a gunshot wound and died at the scene, Glynn County Coroner Marc Neu said.
Greg McMichael worked more than 20 years as an investigator with the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office, retiring on May 31, 2019, said Mark Spaulding, spokesman for the district attorney. McMichael also served seven years with the Glynn County Police Department, police spokesman Brandon Kondo said.
Because of his time with the DA, Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson cited a conflict of interest in the case. Johnson said she referred prosecutorial decisions on the case to Barnhill and the Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office.
Glynn County police have released scant information on the shooting.
In a statement released Monday, county police said, “We are working closely with the district attorney’s office, who has assigned a prosecutor to determine if potential charges may be forthcoming.”
The statement did not specify which judicial circuit office the department was working closely with.
Johnson said she informed Glynn County police immediately about the conflict of interest that existed for her office regarding the case. Johnson then referred county police to the Waycross Judicial Circuit district attorney, she said.
Barnhill confirmed that his department is working with Glynn County police investigators to gather information to determine whether the shooting warrants prosecution. “They seem to be doing all the right things,” Barnhill said of the county police department. “They’re gathering information, film, photos ... They’re putting together a case file. That’s about 70 percent done.”
The case centers on an alleged burglary of a home under construction in Satilla Shores, a south Glynn County neighborhood located off U.S. 17.
Evidence being gathered includes security surveillance video from the home under construction, as well as surveillance video from other homes in the neighborhood, Barnhill said.
Arbery’s body is undergoing an autopsy at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Savannah, Barnhill said. In addition to an autopsy, a toxicology report on Arbery has been requested, he said.
“There’s some behavior that warrants explanation,” he said without elaborating. “I want to get more information on the deceased.”
The autopsy results could be crucial, he said. Barnhill is particularly interested in the trajectory of the bullet that struck Arbery, he said.
“That is going to be key to the case,” Barnhill said.
The autopsy and the toxicology tests could take several weeks, but the district attorney has requested the GBI expedite the process.
“We’ve told them this is a very important case and we want to have everything in our hands and look at it as soon as possible,” he said.
Glynn County police investigators continue to investigate Sunday’s shooting.
“We want to see some background records on everyone involved,” Barnhill said. “There’s no arrest warrant right now that I’m aware of. But they’re going to turn over the information to us and have us make a decision on whether it’s a prosecutable case.”
In December 2013, Arbery was arrested by Glynn County Schools Police after bringing a handgun into the Brunswick High gymnasium during a basketball game with rival Glynn Academy, according to reports. Arbery, then 19, ran when a schools police officer saw the .380 caliber handgun in his waistband. A schools police officer broke his hand in the pursuit of Arbery, who was charged with carrying a weapon on campus and several counts of obstructing a law enforcement officer. He was sentenced to five years’ probation as a first offender, county court records show.
Arbery also was placed on probation for a 2018 shoplifting arrest, according to county court records.
Arbery was a promising football player as a student at Brunswick High, recording 70 tackles in 2011 during his senior year with the Pirates. He was chosen to play in the 2012 Georgia/Florida All-Star game.