It is dangerous to be Black in America. This solemn fact is unpopular prose on the White justice system. However, it is the fragmented vertebrae of truth in the backbone of the Black justice system that is crippling America’s integrity, and as Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump continues to remind us, “There really are two justice systems in America.”
The “lynching” of a Black jogger by three White men in February 2020 reinforces this narrative. Ahmaud Abery was killed for being a running Black man. Then, it took 74 days and the public display of his death via video for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) to make an arrest. This is no surprise as it is only a continuation into the ever-looming crisis that is systemic racism.
Nonetheless, Mr. Crump continues to represent these Black American families and all marginalized communities, rising against the wretchedness of this segregated justice. In the words of the Rev. Al Sharpton, “A lot of lawyers know what to do but don’t have the courage to do it. He has the courage.”
The “Lynching” of Ahmaud Arbery
On February 23, 2020, 25-year-old Ahmaud Marquez Arbery was pursued by two armed White men in a truck, Travis McMichael and his father, a former investigator for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s (DA) office, Gregory McMichael. Arbery was jogging in Satilla Shores, a predominantly White neighborhood in the coastal town of Brunswick, Georgia, approximately two miles from Arbery’s home. A third man, William Bryan, was following the McMichaels in a second vehicle and filming the incident.
At 1:08 pm, Arbery is seen in surveillance video entering a home under construction on Satilla Drive. He then leaves four minutes later and runs past the McMichaels’ house. The same video shows them leave their house at 1:10 pm, following Arbery, Travis carrying a shotgun, and his dad carrying a .357 Magnum. Arbery runs past Bryan’s house, followed by the McMichaels. Bryan then drives from his home to follow the pursuit. He begins to film, and Gregory calls 911.
The video shows the McMicheal truck stopped ahead of Arbery. Gregory is seen in the back of the truck aiming a gun and his son, Travis, stands on the outside driver-side of the truck. Arbery tries to go left, then right, and goes around the passenger-side. The McMichaels yell for him to stop, and an altercation between Travis and Arbery ensues. The camera goes in and out of view, and a shot is heard and then a second.
The camera returns to view as Arbery and McMichael struggle, and both are pulling at the gun. Another shot is fired into Arbery’s chest as he continues to try and disarm his assailant; the video shows him punching McMichael. Unfortunately, he lets go and tumbles to the ground, where he then dies at approximately 1:15 pm. Moments later, the police arrive, report the shooting, and let the men go.
According to the New York Times, the police investigator that contacted Ahmaud’s mother, Wanda Cooper, told her that Arbery was “involved in a burglary” and killed by “the homeowner,” which is not what happened.
More than two months later, and the day before what would have been Arbery’s 26th birthday, the GBI arrest the three men for murder, assault, and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment, after the video of his murder goes public. “The reason they arrested Travis and Greg McMichael for executing Ahmaud Arbery was not because the law enforcement officials saw the video,” Ben Crump said in a statement to NPR. “It was because we the people saw the video, and we were outraged when we saw that modern-day lynching and because we could not unsee what we have saw on that video. And, remember, Michel, the police had this video Day 1. They knew this video existed. And so they were not going to arrest them based on what they saw on the video. They arrested them when the public said we will not stand for this.”
Justice for Ahmaud: A Timeline
February 23, 2020, just after his son shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery, Gregory Micheals tells police that he thought Arbery fit the description of a burglar that was targeting the neighborhood, according to NBC. However, public records show that only one burglary had taken place in the past two months, on January 1. A handgun was stolen from a truck outside of Travis McMichael’s home.
February 27, 2020, the first prosecutor, DA Jackie Johnson, recuses herself due to connections with Gregory McMicheals. Three days later, a local newspaper, The Brunswick News, publishes the police report of the shooting. Two days following the article’s release, a second prosecutor on the case, George Barnhill, recuses himself, defending the actions of the accused.
April 13, 2020, Atlantic Judicial Circuit DA, Tom Durden, is assigned the Ahmaud Arbery case. The pandemic plays a role in silencing the case, and the family worries no action will be taken.
May 5, 2020: Attorney Ben Crump Takes the Case; Video Goes Viral
The same day the graphic video of Arbery’s death goes viral, Durden states that he will send the case for review to see if they should bring up charges. Another Arbery family attorney, Lee Merritt, puts pressure on Durden to arrest both McMichaels, stating, “The series of events captured in this video confirm what all the evidence indicated prior to its release — Mr. Arbery was pursued by three white men that targeted him solely because of his race and murdered him without justification.”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) announce they will take over the case per Durden’s request.
May 7, 2020, both Travis and Gregory McMicheals are arrested at their homes for aggravated assault and the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.
May 8, 2020, would have been the 26th birthday of Arbery. Peaceful protesters stand in support of Arbery’s family. Arbery’s high school football coach, Jason Vaughn, and friend, Akeem M. Baker, create the #IRunWithMaud campaign, which urges supporters to document their 2.23-mile runs and share the hashtag on social media. The Georgia Attorney General’s (AG) office announces they will begin a review of all parties involved in the case. Both McMichaels are refused bond.
The GBI announces they are investigating Williams, the man behind the camera. “We’re going to go wherever the evidence takes us,” GBI Director Vic Reynolds said at a news conference according to NBC News. “Let’s say, hypothetically, if we believe tomorrow or in a week or three weeks there’s probable cause for an arrest, then we’ll do it. If we don’t believe there is, then we won’t.”
May 11, 2020, after Georgia AG Chris Carr reaches out to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to do a sweeping investigation of the case, they respond by saying they are taking opening a federal hate crime case against Arberey’s murderers into consideration. Carr then requests the GBI investigate DAs Johnson and Barnhill for “possible prosecutorial misconduct” and appoints Cobb County Judicial Circuit District Attorney Joyette Holmes as the lead prosecutor.
The following day, the county releases Ahmaud Arbery’s autopsy report, showing he was shot twice in the chest and that a bullet grazed his wrist. GBI announces they are investigating the two previous DA prosecutors.
May 21, 2020, the GBI arrests William Bryan, charging him with criminal attempt, murder, and attempting to commit false imprisonment. Two weeks later, Glynn County Judge Wallace E. Harrell rules that enough probable cause is available to proceed with the case.
May 23, 2020, in response to the murder, Georgia State Senate passes a hate crime bill that was approved by Governor Brian Kemp, who said he would sign it after a legal review, according to the New York Times.
On June 24, 2020, a Glynn County Grand Jury indicted each of the three men with four counts of felony murder, malice murder, two counts of aggravated assault, criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment, and false imprisonment.
“This confirms what Ahmaud’s father has been saying for months — that this was a lynching,” Ben Crump releases in a statement following the indictment. “This is a significant step on the road to justice, and while nothing will bring back Ahmaud’s life, it is important that a Grand jury recognized his life had value and was wrongly and ruthlessly ended.”
Ben Crump on Arbery’s Death
“It’s so reminiscent of the motivations for lynchings, which claimed more than 3,400 black lives from 1882 to 1968: A crime was committed or suspected; black people were rounded up and murdered,” Ben Crump wrote in USA TODAY. “Justice was done — white justice, the only justice that mattered… Like Trayvon Martin before him, Arbery’s death touched a nerve, awakening Americans to the reality that the rules are different for black and white people. Walking a mile in a black person’s shoes should be seen as an important wake-up call — one that is so very dangerous.”
Ben Crump: Today’s Civil Rights Attorney and Fierce Advocate for Justice
For every generation that carries the torch to eradicate systemic racism, there is a face. Ben Crump is that face for today’s generation. Being called “Black America’s Attorney General,” he holds that “coin” to heart and continues to push forward with everything he can to make prosecutors, judges, and juries go beyond history and do what needs to be done, which is hold those accountable for killing minorities.
“[Ben Crump Law, PLLC] is the firm of this generation,” Al Sharpton said when comparing Ben Crump to Johnny Cochran, the Black attorney that represented O.J Simpson and Michael Jackson.
Ben Crump will continue fighting for all those suffering at the hands of this unjust system, breaking the chains of adversity so all minorities may one day have equal opportunities and no longer face the inequity of America’s broken justice system.
About Ahmaud Arbery
AHMAUD MARQUEZ ARBERY was killed at the age of 25 while going out for his daily jog. Like many millennials, Ahmaud, known to his friends and family as “Maud” and “Quez,” was living at home with his mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, in Brunswick, Georgia, still trying to figure out where he wanted his life to take him. In high school, Ahmaud joined the Brunswick Pirates’ football team, with a dream of one day playing professionally. He was skinny for a football player, but his speed was an undeniable gift. He was always making his classmates smile with frequent words of encouragement (and doing funny impersonations of their Coach.) Though the NFL turned him down, Ahmaud refused to let that disapppointment define him. He worked at a McDonald’s and at his father’s car wash to support himself, but figured a career as an electrician, like his uncles’, might be an especially good path to embark on. He enrolled at South Georgia Technical College, where he planned to take classes in the fall of 2020.
But no matter what uncertainties his life and future held, he always had jogging to turn to.
On the afternoon of February 23rd, 2020, Ahmaud went for his usual run, in the suburb of Satilla Shores. He was spotted by Gregory McMichael, an ex-cop who once worked as an investigator for the Georgia District Attorney’s office, and his adult son, Travis. The McMichaels convinced themselves Ahmaud was behind a recent string of neighborhood burglaries, just because he and the suspect were both young Black men. They chased after Ahmaud in their pickup truck and cornered him by the side of the road. An argument ensued, and Travis, armed with a shotgun, fired at Ahmaud – three times. A neighbor of the McMichaels, William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., helped them pursue Ahmaud from his own car. Bryan filmed everything, and did nothing.
The video of Ahmaud’s murder, shot on Bryan‘s cell phone, was not discovered or released until Tuesday, May 5th. It instantly went viral and sparked an outcry across the world, leading to the arrest of the McMichaels and eventually, Bryan.
Benjamin Crump is determined to see these three killers face justice, so that Ahmaud and his family may finally receive it.