The killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who was gunned down in Georgia this year, is being investigated by the Justice Department as a possible hate crime, according to multiple reports.
According to CBS News, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia will also investigate why it took so long for Arbery’s killers to be arrested.
Arbery was killed in February after Gregory and Travis McMichael chased him in a pickup truck while he was jogging outside of Brunswick, Georgia. The white father and son began to pursue Arbery, they said, because they suspected him in a string of burglaries in the area. The pursuit ended in a confrontation, which ended in the younger McMichael shooting Arbery with a shotgun.
Neither the father nor son was arrested immediately after the incident, perhaps because the elder McMichael was a former police officer and investigator for the local district attorney. More than two months later, on May 7, both men were charged with murder and felony aggravated assault. That only came after a national uproar was sparked by a video of the shooting posted online. The footage, and the story of two white man chasing down an unarmed black man and killing him, had some labeling the incident a lynching. On May 22, a third man who joined the McMichaels in pursuing Arbery was also charged with murder.
Days after the McMichaels were arrested, the Justice Department said it would review the case, at the request of Georgia’s attorney general, to see if it should be investigated as a hate crime. A lawyer for the suspects denied that the McMichaels are guilty of a hate crime. “Greg McMichael did not commit murder. Greg McMichael is not a party to the crime of murder,” lawyer Franklin Hogue said last week. “This is not some sort of hate crime fueled by racism.”
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr also asked the DOJ to investigate the handling of the case by local authorities. Carr called for a “complete and transparent review of how the Ahmaud Arbery case was handled from the outset.”
Attorneys for Arbery’s family said the family supports Carr’s effort. “We have requested the involvement of the DOJ since we first took this case,” the attorneys said in a statement. “There are far too many questions about how this case was handled and why it took 74 days for two of the killers to be arrested and charged in Mr. Arbery’s death.”