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DOJ Investigating Ahmaud Arbery Murder As Possible Hate Crime

The U.S. Department of Justice is looking into the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black man shot and killed by two white men, as a hate crime, CBS News reported Monday.

Arbery, 25, was shot and killed while jogging in a Georgia suburb. Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael were eventually charged. Despite the shooting taking place months ago, no arrests were made in the case until a video of the shooting was leaked online earlier this month.

Attorneys for Arbery’s family told CBS that Bobby Christine, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, and his office would be looking into why Glynn County and the state of Georgia took more than two months to make an arrest in the case and whether the region had a history of violating the rights of its citizens, according to the report. The U.S. Attorney told CBS he planned to file criminal and civil charges in the case.

The 36-second video of the shooting, which took place on February 23, showed the McMichaels in a pickup truck stopped in the street. They were waiting for Arbery as he jogged down the road in broad daylight.

Arbery then attempted to run around the truck. A brief struggle ensued. The man carrying a shotgun, believed to be Travis McMichael, opened fire.

A man believed to be Gregory McMichael is shown standing on the bed of the truck holding a handgun before coming down and standing next to the shooter. The fatally wounded Arbery’s knees buckled, and he fell down in the street. Following the shooting, Gregory McMichael, a retired police officer, told authorities he believed Arbery resembled a suspect in a series of local break-ins and that he attacked Travis, his son, when they confronted him.

The first two district attorneys in the case stepped aside because of conflicts of interest originating from the fact that Gregory McMichael used to be an investigator for the first prosecutor’s office. As previously reported by Law&Crime, the man who filmed Arbery’s murder, William “Roddie” Bryan, Jr., was arrested last week and charged with felony murder in the killing.

Criminal acts prosecuted as hate crimes — meaning they were motivated by a sense of bias against a victim’ immutable characteristic such as race, religion, or sexuality — generally allow perpetrators to be subjected to harsher sentences. Georgia is one of only four states, along with South Carolina, Wyoming, and Arkansas, to not have state hate crime statutes on the books.

[Image via Attorney Benjamin Crump.]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.