GBI: ‘Sufficient probable cause’ for arrest of father, son in shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery
GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - A judge officially denied bond for Gregory and Travis McMichael on Friday.
The former law enforcement officer and his son are charged in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery. Both are charged with felony murder and aggravated assault.
Graphic cell phone video led to a national uproar over the case and the fact that no one had been arrested.
Earlier this week, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and the GBI director called the prosecutor on the case and asked if they could help. GBI Director Vic Reynolds said no amount of social media pressure led to the charges.
"None of that matters to the GBI. It doesn’t matter who the person is. It doesn’t matter who the victim is, it doesn’t matter who potential defendants are,” Reynolds said.
The video shows Travis shooting Arbery in the middle of the road in a Brunswick neighborhood in February.
In an incident report, Gregory tells police they chased Arbery because they thought he was a burglary suspect.
The GBI director says seeing the video disturbed him, adding it’s clearly a big piece of evidence in the case. However, he indicated it’s not the only evidence against the men.
The second prosecutor who recused himself sent a letter to the attorney general in April saying he thought the shooting was self-defense.
He’s also said the McMichaels acted within the law in chasing Arbery. He also accused a “rabble rouser” of drawing attention to this case in March and early April.
The GBI director was asked about that letter and the opposite conclusion his agents came to in just 36 hours.
“Again, I can’t speak on behalf of what anyone else sees or doesn’t see about a case but I will tell you that we base our decisions on two things: one are facts and the other is the law. Whatever the facts are, we apply the law to it. If the law says what the facts are is a felony murder, then we take the warrants for it. I’m very comfortable in telling you there’s more than sufficient probable cause in this case for felony murder," said Director Vic Reynolds.
Arbery’s family says he was chased and killed for no good reason.
Citizens took to the street Friday in Brunswick for a rally. Members of the community say they are glad to see the two arrests, but they also want a third man to be arrested, the man who filmed the video. The GBI director did not rule another arrest out during his news conference on Friday.
At Friday’s news conference, the GBI was directly asked simply: how did his agency come to the conclusion this was criminal so quickly, and whether he believes this was murder?
“I can tell you that if we didn’t believe it, we wouldn’t have arrested. If we believe it, then we’re going to put the bracelets (handcuffs) on them and that’s exactly what we did yesterday evening. When it is handed over to Mr. Durden for ultimate prosecution, it will be complete; it will be done, and every stone will be turned over. I promise you,” said Director Vic Reynolds, Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Sheriff’s deputies and GBI agents arrested both men Thursday night. Director Reynolds says they agreed on charges around 5 p.m. after investigating a little over 24 hours.
The Glynn County Police Department handled the original investigation. The agency now faces renewed scrutiny over their willingness to prosecute people in the law enforcement community.
The GBI can only investigate at the request of a local agency. Some say that should've happened much sooner. Reynolds agrees.
"In a perfect world, would we have preferred to have been asked to become involved in February, of course. But sometimes it isn't a perfect world, so we have to deal with the situation as it's placed in front of us,” Reynolds said.
The agency has veteran agents working this case. Reynolds did not rule out more arrests, saying this about what his agents will do when the national attention eventually subsides.
"They’re staying in this community. They’re going to go wherever the facts take them. If in fact, the facts take them to make another arrest in this case, then they will do that,” Reynold said.
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