Man who filmed Ahmaud Arbery shooting arrested; GBI says investigation wrapping up

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Investigators looking into the killing of Ahmaud Arbery will finish up their work soon and hand the case over to a prosecutor, the head of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Friday.

GBI Director Vic Reynolds said he does not expect any more arrests in the case, though he did not rule out the possibility if new evidence were to arise.

Reynolds also said Friday that a separate team of investigators looking into alleged misconduct in the handling of the case – which went months without any arrests – plan to finish their work shortly, too.

“I hope the way we’ve handled the case brings an air of credibility to the criminal justice system,” Reynolds told reporters Friday morning.

Arbery, 25, was fatally shot in February about 2 miles from his home in a neighborhood outside Brunswick, Georgia. His family says he was out for a jog. 

Three men have been arrested in the case, including the man who filmed the encounter, William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., 50. Bryan who was arrested Thursday on felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment charges.

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Bryan was the third person arrested in the case. Reynolds said earlier that the department was investigating him, but Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, maintained his client’s innocence and called on the GBI to clear his name.

“Roddie is a family man, NASCAR fan, and enjoys rock and roll. He is not now, and never has been, a ‘vigilante’,” Gough said in a statement this month. He added that Bryan was a witness to a crime.

Reynolds said Friday that there was no one recent discovery or fact in the investigation that led to Bryan’s arrest, rather an accumulation of evidence. 

“If we believed he was a witness, we wouldn’t have arrested him,” Reynolds said.

Gough didn’t provide comment when reached by USA TODAY on Friday.

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In a statement Thursday, attorneys for Arbery’s family praised the GBI for Bryan’s arrest.

“We called for his arrest from the very beginning of this process. His involvement in the murder of Mr. Arbery was obvious to us, to many around the country and after their thorough investigation it was clear to the GBI as well,” S. Lee Merritt, Benjamin Crump and L. Chris Stewart said in a joint statement.

Earlier this month, Gregory, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34, were arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault after video of Arbery’s killing was released and public outcry followed.

Gregory McMichael told police that he and his son believed Arbery matched the description of a burglary suspect. They grabbed their guns when they saw him running in the neighborhood and told police they weren’t sure whether Arbery was armed.

Glynn County police told USA TODAY that they had no records of home break-ins or burglaries between Jan. 1 and Feb. 23 in that neighborhood. Local media reported one car burglary.

Surveillance video shows Arbery stopping at a house under construction before the McMichaels pursued him. However, the owner of the property said nothing was taken and video shows several people had entered the construction site over the course of several months.

Why was Bryan arrested on a murder charge?

In Georgia, a person can be charged with felony murder if they commit any felony causing someone’s death, Reynolds said Friday, regardless of their intent. 

A memo from a previous district attorney investigating the case says that Gregory McMichael told police that Bryan was involved in following Arbery before the events on the video unfold. The memo says Bryan “attempted to block (Arbery), which was unsuccessful.”

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According to an arrest warrant, Bryan “did attempt to confine and detain Ahmaud Arbery without legal authority.” The warrant for Bryan’s felony murder charge says that he “did cause the death of another, Ahmaud Arbery, during the commission of a felony.”

Why were no arrests made until May?

Local prosecutors had initially refused to charge anyone in the case.

A district attorney who previously led the investigation told police he did not see grounds for an arrest of the McMichaels or Bryan as the group was in “hot pursuit of a burglary suspect.” 

“It appears it was their intent to stop and hold this criminal suspect until law enforcement arrived,” Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George E. Barnhill wrote in a memo. “Under Georgia law, that is perfectly legal.” 

More than 2 months before arrests: Why it took so long for murder charges and arrests in the death of Ahmaud Arbery

However, Georgia law allows private citizens to make arrests only if they witness the offense or have immediate knowledge of it. Arbery’s family’s attorneys say surveillance videos shows Arbery was not committing a crime before he was killed. 

Barnhill said in the memo that he was recusing himself from the case over a conflict of interest. He said that Arbery’s mother wanted him off the case because his son worked in the Brunswick District Attorney’s office. Gregory McMichael retired last year after working more than two decades as an investigator in that office.

Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson also previously recused herself from the case because of the relationship to Gregory McMichael. McMichael is also a former Glynn County police officer. 

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr has called for an investigation into the prosecutors’ actions. Reynolds said Friday that the GBI’s work in that investigation was coming to a close as well and would be handed over prosecutors.

Joyette M. Holmes, the Cobb County District Attorney whom Carr appointed to take over the case, pledged Friday to find justice in the case.

“We are going to make sure that we find justice in this case. We know that we have a broken family and a broken community down in Brunswick,” she said.

Contributing: Nicquel Terry Ellis, Grace Hauck and Jordan Culver

Follow USA TODAY’s Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ahmaud Arbery: William Bryan arrested; Joyette Holmes vows justice





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