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Georgia Will Investigate The Killing Of An Unarmed Black Man


In Georgia, pressure is mounting on law enforcement to make an arrest in a controversial killing of an unarmed black man back in February. Ahmaud Arbery was jogging through a neighborhood in Brunswick, Ga., when two white men in a truck confronted him, and then one shot him. There have been no arrests. This week, video of the incident surfaced and further inflamed the community. Last night, people crowded around the local sheriff to protest.


SHAPIRO: Joining us now to talk about what's happening is Emily Jones of Georgia Public Broadcasting.

Hi there.


SHAPIRO: Start by describing what happened back in February.

JONES: Well, Arbery was running down a residential street. And two men, a father and son named Gregory and Travis McMichael, confronted him. They were in a pickup truck and kind of cut him off as he was running. There had been some recent robberies, they said, in the neighborhood. And they claimed that Arbery had shown up on security footage. The McMichaels got their guns, and they confronted Arbery as he was exercising. And Travis McMichael and Arbery fought. Then Travis's shotgun went off. The McMichaels say that they were making a citizen's arrest. But friends and family of Ahmaud Arbery say that doesn't really make sense, that he was just jogging. And we should point out that this is somewhat similar to the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida back in 2012. In that case, Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old African American who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman. Zimmerman said that Martin was acting suspiciously. They got into a confrontation, and Zimmerman killed Martin then claimed self-defense, much as these folks are doing now.

SHAPIRO: What's the status of the investigation?

JONES: The district attorney assigned to the case has now asked state law enforcement authorities to investigate, and he also says that he'll take it before a grand jury. This DA, though, is actually the third one involved in the case. The first one almost immediately cited a conflict of interest because Gregory McMichael was an investigator for more than 20 years in the Brunswick DA's office. So the Brunswick DA removed herself, and then the next one assigned to the case also removed himself at the family's request because his son works in that same Brunswick DA's office. So although the shooting happened back in February, there have still been no arrests, no charges - and mounting frustration and anger in the community now about that.

SHAPIRO: Yeah, and I understand that Ahmaud Arbery's family held a news conference today. What did they say?

JONES: They did. They spoke along with their lawyers, and the lawyers really highlighted the fact that Greg McMichael worked in law enforcement in the county for so long. They're contending that the whole system is compromised because of that, and they're actually calling for the federal Department of Justice to step in. Arbery's parents are also calling for justice and mourning their son. His mom, Wanda Cooper Jones, also talked about the graphic video of the shooting that just became public yesterday.


WANDA COOPER-JONES: I haven't viewed the video. I don't think that I'll ever reach the mental capacity to ever watch the video. You know, I saw my son come in the world. And seeing him leave the world is not something that I want to see ever.

JONES: And clearly, Ari, not having any resolution from law enforcement is continuing to hurt this family.

SHAPIRO: And just briefly, how is the pandemic affecting the investigation?

JONES: The biggest impact is on the grand jury. There is a judicial state of emergency here in Georgia through June 12, so a jury can't be impaneled. And we don't really know when that will happen. I also think it's fair to say that there probably would have been more protests sooner if people weren't scared to go out in big groups.

SHAPIRO: That's Emily Jones, Savannah bureau chief of Georgia Public Broadcasting.

Thanks a lot.

JONES: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Emily Jones locally hosts Morning Edition and reports on all things coastal Georgia for GPB’s Savannah bureau. Before coming to GPB, she studied broadcast journalism at the Columbia Journalism School and urban history at Brown University. She’s worked for the Wall Street Journal Radio Network, WHYY in Philadelphia, and WBRU and RIPR in Providence. In addition to anchoring and reporting news at WBRU, Emily hosted the alt-rock station’s Retro Lunch as her DJ alter-ego, Domino.