Glynn County releases statement on shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery

Ahmaud Arbery
Ahmaud Arbery(WMC)
Published: May. 9, 2020 at 5:06 PM EDT
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GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - Glynn County released a statement on the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery on Saturday.

In it, they say Glynn County Police opted not to charge Travis and Gregory McMichael with the February 23rd shooting on the advice of two different district attorneys.

The McMichaels were arrested this week after the GBI took over the case.

In the statement, the county say that first Brunswick DA Jackie Johnson’s office told them there wasn’t probable cause for an arrest.

The county also says her office told detectives the McMichaels were not a flight risk and no arrests were necessary at the time.

Johnson previously said she recused herself, given the McMichaels’ connection to her office. Gregory worked at the Glynn County Police Department in the 80s and spent more than two decades as an investigator with the Brunswick DA.

This statement accuses her of only doing so after her office weighed in on the shooting.

WTOC has reached out to her office for a comment on the accusations.

The statement goes on to say Glynn County Police also followed the advice of Waycross DA George Barnhill Senior. They say he told detectives the shooting was a “justifiable homicide” less than 24 hours after it happened. Barnhill wrote to the state attorney general that his son and Gregory McMichael had helped with a previous prosecution of Arbery. It is not known if Gregory McMichael remembered or recognized Arbery at the time of the incident.

The county spokesman also says Barnhill told them not to release facts about the case that “could impact future prosecution.”

The full statement from Glynn County is below.

On Sunday, February 23, 2020, two calls were received at the Glynn-Brunswick 911 Center between 1:08pm and 1:15pm involving activity that was reported as suspicious in the Satilla Shores neighborhood located off US-17 in Glynn County. The Glynn County Police Department responded to the calls. Gun shots were heard by the responding officer upon arrival to the Satilla Shores neighborhood. Shortly thereafter, the location of the gun shots was identified, and an ambulance was called. The Glynn County Police Department immediately began investigative activities. Detectives arrived on the scene at approximately 1:45pm.

Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael were brought to Glynn County Police Headquarters for questioning at approximately 3:30pm on February 23rd. Glynn County Police Officers sought the legal advice of the Brunswick District Attorney’s Office in reference to possible charges. At that point, the DA’s office became involved in the investigation. The DA’s office advised that there needed to be further follow up and the detectives would be contacted the following day by the DA from the Waycross Judicial Circuit. The McMichaels were deemed not to be flight risks and officers were advised by the DA’s office that no arrests were necessary at the time. Detectives met with DA George Barnhill, Sr. of the Waycross Judicial Circuit the following day and reviewed their findings with him. DA Barnhill, Sr. advised detectives before noon on February, 24th that the act was justifiable homicide and for detectives to continue their investigation and provide him with lab reports and any additional pertinent information. The autopsy results were received by the Glynn County Police Department on April 1st and immediately forwarded to DA Barnhill, Sr.

Given the familial relationship of DA George Barnhill, Sr. and an Assistant District Attorney in the Brunswick District Attorney’s Office, the family of Ahmaud Arbery requested that DA Barnhill, Sr. be removed from the case. At this point, DA Barnhill, Sr. recused himself from the case and contacted the Georgia Attorney General’s office to seek assistance in finding another DA to handle the further “evaluation for prosecution,” as he stated in his April 3rd letter to Glynn County Police Captain Tom Jump. In this letter, DA Barnhill, Sr. notes, “I appreciate there is immediate pressure on your department as to the issue of “arrest.”” DA Barnhill, Sr.’s letter makes five points regarding the case and concludes that there was insufficient probable cause to issue arrest warrants at that time. In consultation with the Georgia Attorney General’s office, the case was transferred to DA Tom Durden’s Office of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit.

When the Glynn County Police Department had jurisdiction over the case, it was ultimately decided not to seek out the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) to review the case given that none of the officers involved in the case were employed with the Police Department, from 1982 to 1989, when Greg McMichael was employed by the department and the officers involved in the case had little to no contact with Mr. McMichael when he was employed by the Brunswick District Attorney’s Office.

From the beginning, the Glynn County Police Department has sought justice in this case. Glynn County followed the direction of DA Barnhill, Sr., and officers were advised not to publicly release information in reference to the case that could impact future prosecution.

In the press conference held by the GBI following the arrest of the McMichaels, it was stated that the Glynn County Police Department had conducted a thorough and good investigation into the case. The Police Department stands ready to further assist the GBI and DA Tom Durden into the investigation and court proceedings that will follow. The Police Department has continued to be advised not to release any information regarding the case other than to law enforcement and judicial agencies as we await the answers that many in the community and the nation are seeking in this case.

Hinesville District Attorney Tom Durden is the third prosecutor to handle the case.

[Related Story: GBI releases new details after father, son charged with murder of Ahmaud Arbery]

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