- The prosecutor investigating the shooting death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black man killed by two white men, said he now expects a grand jury to review the case.
- Activists have vocally called for the arrests of Gregory and Travis McMichael, who chased and gunned down Arbery on Feb. 23.
- The McMichaels said they believed Arbery was behind a recent string of break-ins, but Arbery’s family says he was only out for a jog.
- So far, no arrests have been filed.
- On Tuesday, the situation ignited even more outrage after a video that appears to be of Arbery’s death seemingly leaked online.
Ahmaud Arbery is Shot and Killed
On Feb. 23, 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed while running alone on a street in the coastal town of Brunswick, Georgia. On May 5, the prosecutor overseeing the case finally announced that he believed a grand jury would eventually review the case.
With a two-month plus gap and still no criminal charges filed, Arbery’s case has struck an extremely sensitive chord with many activists who have called for the arrests of 64-year-old Gregory McMichael and his 34-year-old son, Travis McMichael.
Notably, Arbery was black. Both of the McMichaels are white.
According to witness testimony from Gregory McMichael in a police report filed with the Glynn County Police Department, Arbery was running alone when he was spotted by McMichael. McMichael told police he believed Arbery was the suspect from a series of recent break-ins in the neighborhood.
McMichael then describes Arbery as “hauling ass” down the road. He said he ran inside and called for Travis to help chase Arbery. Travis grabbed his shotgun while McMichael grabbed his .357 Magnum revolver.
According to McMichael, this was because they “didn’t know if the male was armed or not.” McMichael claimed he had specifically seen Arbery several nights before with his hand stuck in his pants, so he thought he might be armed.
After leaving the house, McMichael and Travis got into a truck to pursue Arbery. According to McMichael, the pair drove up to him and tried to cut him off, but Arbery turned around and began running in the opposite direction.
McMichael said he shouted, “Stop. Stop. We want to talk to you,” but Arbery kept running.
The men shouted again. This time, Travis got out of the truck with the shotgun. At that point, McMichael said Arbery began to “violently” attack Travis. Arbery and Travis then reportedly started fighting over the shotgun.
Travis fired a shot. A second later, he fired another shot. After that, McMichael said Arbery fell down face first with his hand under his body.
McMichael said he rolled Arbery over to see if he had a weapon, but notably, Arbery was unarmed.
Later, when police arrived on the scene, Arbery was pronounced dead on the spot.
No One Is Charged in the Killing of Arbery
Since the shooting, several local news outlets have obtained a recording of a 911 call where an anonymous person says they thought they saw Arbery in a house that was under construction.
“And you said someone’s breaking into it right now?” the dispatcher asks.
“No, it’s all open,” the unidentified caller says. “It’s under construction… And he’s running right now. There he goes right now.”
“Okay, what is he doing?” the dispatcher asks.
“He is running down the street,” the caller says.
Contrary to what McMichaels and that caller may have suspected, Arbery’s family has argued that Arbery was not responsible for those break-ins and that he was most likely only out for a jog.
“Arbery had not committed any crime and there was no reason for these men to believe they had the right to stop him with weapons or to use deadly force in furtherance of their unlawful attempted stop,” Lee Merritt, the family’s attorney said in a statement.
While the police report listed Gregory McMichael as a witness and Travis McMichael as a suspect, neither have been brought into custody or charged with any form of criminal offense.
One of the reasons there may have been a two-month plus delay in action by law enforcement is because there have reportedly been repeated conflicts of interest.
In fact, two prosecutors initially assigned to oversee the case both had to recuse themselves because they had professional connections to Gregory McMichael. That’s because McMichael is actually a former investigator for the Brunswick District Attorney’s office as well as a former officer for the Glynn County Police Department.
Before recusing himself, one of those prosecutors, George E. Barnhill, reportedly advised police that there was insufficient evidence to arrest the McMichaels, arguing that they had acted legally under the state’s citizen arrest and self-defense statutes.
Video of Shooting is Released
In a letter to the police department, Barnhill described a video made by a third man who reportedly joined the McMichaels in “hot pursuit” of Abery.
On Tuesday, a clip that is believed to be that video was leaked online, though police have yet to confirm it. That leaked video has since become the subject of massive controversy as it essentially depicts what appears to be Arbery dying.
Arbery’s family had reportedly made multiple requests to law enforcement to access the video, but according to Merritt, they did not actually see it until it was leaked, even though he claims the police have had it since the day Arbery was killed.
In the video, a man who is believed to be Arbery runs down the street. From a white truck, men shout at the runner. Arbery then runs around the truck, and before he’s seen on camera again, a gunshot can be heard.
Afterward, Arbery and the man who is believed to be Travis McMichael can be seen fighting before disappearing from the frame once again. Notably, unlike the testimony given in the police report, a total of three shots can be heard instead of two.
Following that, Arbery tries to run away but can be seen staggering before falling down.
After that video was leaked, Tom Durden, the District Attorney of Georgia’s Atlantic Judicial Court and the third prosecutor in this case, said in a statement on Tuesday, “After careful review of the evidence, I am confident the case should be presented to the grand jury of Glynn County for consideration of criminal charges.”
Notably, though, all grand juries in Georgia are currently prohibited from meeting until June 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Later that same night, the Georgia Bureau of Investigations said that Durden had formally requested that the agency investigate Arbery’s death.
Community and Activist Reaction to Arbery’s Death
In addition to Arbery’s family, tons of people have cried foul over this shooting and the lack of arrests. After that video leaked on Tuesday, a crowd gathered on the street where Arbery was killed, chanting “We want justice!”
Merritt has also been vocal since the video’s release, saying that the “series of events captured in this video confirm what all the evidence indicated prior to its release— Ahmaud Arbery was pursued by three white men that targeted him solely because of his race and murdered him without justification. This is murder.”
Among other notable people, James Woodall, president of Georgia’s NAACP, criticized the first two prosecutors on the case and called the shooting “white supremacy full on.”
“While we acknowledge District Attorney Tom Durden’s intentions to convene a grand jury to bring charges against the men who gunned down Ahmaud Arbery,” Woodall said, “we recognize that we have a long way to go until we reach justice. The modern-day lynching of Mr. Arbery is yet another reminder of the vile and wicked racism that persists in parts of our country.”
Woodall also plans to hold a protest Friday at the Glynn County courthouse.
Other vocal critics of the shooting include Lebron James, who on Wednesday took to Twitter to say, “We’re literally hunted EVERYDAY/EVERYTIME we step foot outside the comfort of our homes! Can’t even go for a damn jog man! Like WTF man are you kidding me?!?!?!?!?!? No man fr ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!!! I’m sorry Ahmaud(Rest In Paradise) and my prayers and blessings sent to the heavens above to your family!!” #StayWoke #ProfiledCauseWeAreSimplyBlack”
Actress Olivia Wilde has also been tweeting about Arbery over the last few days, saying on Tuesday, “These monsters have not been charged for this vicious murder that occurred more than 2 mos ago. His crime? Jogging while black. Where is the outrage? @GovKemp, we will not let you ignore this.”
On Thursday, Wilde tweeted that she would participate in a 2.23 mile run on Friday to honor Arbery and to “raise awareness about racism and injustice in this country.” Friday would have marked Arbery’s 26th birthday.
See what others are saying: (Time) (First Coast News) (USA Today)
Texas Students Created Snapchat Group To ‘Slave Trade’ Black Classmates
- Freshmen at a Texas high school set up a Snapchat group to pretend to sell their Black classmates.
- A screenshot showed the group name being changed from “Slave Trade” with emojis of a Black man, a gun, and a white police officer to “[racial slur] Farm” and then “[racial slur] Auction.”
- That image also shows a person saying they would spend $100 on a peer while a second student said they would spend $1 on another, adding “would be better if his hair wasn’t so bad.”
- The school faced backlash for initially describing it as “an incident of cyberbullying and harassment,” without acknowledging the racism. The district later issued a stronger condemnation and said the students were disciplined but did not list specific consequences.
Racist Snapchat Group
Aledo high school students at Daniel Ninth Grade Campus in Northern Texas are making headlines for setting up a Snapchat group to pretend to sell their Black classmates.
A screenshot reviewed by several local news outlets showed the group name being changed from “Slave Trade” with emojis of a Black man, a gun, and a white police officer to “[racial slur] Farm” and then “[racial slur] Auction.”
That image also shows a person saying they would spend $100 on a peer. A second student said they would spend $1 on another, adding “would be better if his hair wasn’t so bad.”
At least one student who was mentioned as being “sold” in the chats was later sent screenshots of the conversations.
According to a report from the Star-Telegram reported last week, when the issue was brought to Principal Carolyn Ansley, she sent parents an email that didn’t mention the Snapchat group but only cited “an incident of cyberbullying and harassment.”
That caused frustrations because parents felt the issue of racism wasn’t being addressed or acknowledged.
Mark Grubbs, a father of three former students, told KXAS he was sickened by the students’ actions. Grubbs, who is Black, also said he had taken his children out of the district over other racist incidents in the past.
“My son being called out of his name and what not and it got to the point he didn’t mind fighting and that didn’t sit right with me and my wife. My son was never a fighter,” he said.
After the incident garnered media attention, the Aledo Independent School District issued a statement.
The district said it learned of the incident more than two weeks ago and started an investigation that involved law enforcement.
“There is no room for racism or hatred in the Aledo ISD, period,” it added. “Using inappropriate, offensive and racially charged language and conduct is completely unacceptable and is prohibited by district policy.”
District officials spoke with the students responsible as well as their parents, saying they “made it clear that statements and conduct that targets a student because of his or her race is not only prohibited but also has a profound impact on the victims.”
The district also said it assigned disciplinary consequences, though it did not explicitly state what those consequences were or state how many students were involved.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (ABC) (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
What You Need To Know About the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Pause
- The CDC and the FDA have issued a joint recommendation to pause distribution of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine amid reports that six women experienced “extremely rare” blood clots after receiving the single-dose shot.
- The vast majority of the 6.8 million Americans who were given the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have reported minor to no side effects, and no direct link has been established between the vaccine and blood clots at this time.
- The two agencies are expected to release updated guidance in the coming days.
- Several states and cities are now automatically giving the two-dose Pfizer vaccine to people who were scheduled to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week.
CDC and FDA Recommend J&J Vaccine Halt
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the Food and Drug Administration, released a statement Tuesday recommending a pause on the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.
So far, 6.8 million people in the U.S. have been vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine, most with zero or only mild side effects.
The updated guidance comes after six women, all between the ages of 18 to 48, experienced what both agencies described as “extremely rare” blood clots six to 13 days after being vaccinated. One of those women has died and another is in critical condition.
Neither the CDC nor the FDA has confirmed that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the cause of these blood clots; rather, they said this guidance comes “out of an abundance of caution.”
That’s also in line with Johnson & Johnson itself, which said it’s aware of the reports but added that “no clear causal relationship has been established between these rare events.” As a precaution, Johnson & Johnson has also now delayed the rollout of its vaccine in Europe.
What Happens From Here?
Principal Deputy Director of the CDC Anne Schuchat said further recommendations will come quickly.
FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock echoed that statement, saying, “We expect it to be a matter of days for this pause.”
Wednesday, a CDC committee will convene to discuss the cases and assess their potential significance.
When asked if the government was overreacting to just six cases out of nearly 7 million vaccinations (a criticism made by some online), Schuchat said the CDC pulled its recommendation specifically because the type of blood clots seen in these 6 women requires special treatment, so “it was of the utmost importance to us to get the word out.”
In the meantime, both agencies are urging Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients to contact their doctors if they experience any combination of severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath.
What If I Had A J&J Appointment?
Both agencies, as well as other health officials, are still urging unvaccinated people to take the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines when available in their area.
The White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator has said that 28 million doses of those vaccines will be made available this week. Notably, that’s more than enough for the country to continue giving 3 million shots a day.
If you had an appointment scheduled to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you’re likely not completely out of luck.
For example, while D.C. vaccination sites are canceling all Johnson & Johnson appointments between Tuesday and this Saturday, the health department there has said it’ll send out invitations on Wednesday to reschedule.
Similar situations were reported in Virginia and Maryland, though some vaccination sites in Maryland are still honoring existing appointments by automatically giving people Pfizer instead. That’s also a process that is now being conducted in places like New York State and Memphis.
See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (NBC News) (The Washington Post)
Minnesota Protests Continue for a Second Night Over Police Killing of Daunte Wright
- Protests continued in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on Monday over the death of Daunte Wright, who was fatally shot by a police officer who allegedly thought she was using her Taser.
- Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators violating the 7 p.m. curfew, as well as others who threw projectiles back at the officers. Several incidents of looting were reported, though law enforcement officials said they were minimal.
- That same evening, police officials identified the officer involved in Wright’s death as Kimberly Potter, a 26-year veteran of the force, prompting many experts to flag numerous reasons an officer with her experience should have known not to confuse her weapon with a stun gun.
- Wright tendered her resignation on Tuesday, as did Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon.
Second Night of Demonstrations
Demonstrators clashed with police for the second night in a row Monday after an officer shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.
Much like protests the day before, the events reportedly started out peaceful, with hundreds attending a vigil on the street where Wright was killed. Hundreds more gathered outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department.
The situation started to escalate after 7 p.m. when the curfew instituted across all four Twin City metro-area countries went into effect. According to reports, police began to warn people that they were in violation of the curfew, and shortly before 8 p.m., officers began firing rounds of tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash grenades.
Some protesters reportedly retaliated by throwing water bottles, fireworks, and other projectiles. Later, police in riot gear pushed groups of demonstrators who had regrouped away from the police station.
Looters also broke into several businesses at a strip mall close by, including a Dollar Tree, where flames were reportedly later spotted, though law enforcement officials described the looting as limited.
During a press briefing just after midnight, officials said that 40 people had been arrested at the Brooklyn Center protest.
Late Monday, state officials identified the officer who fatally shot Wright as Kimberly Potter, a 26-year veteran of the force. BCPD Chief Tim Gannon had previously said that the officer, who he refused to name, had intended to use her Taser, but accidentally used her gun.
Many social media users and experts questioned how someone with 26 years of experience could mix up a Taser and a gun, including one retired sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department, who told The New York Times, “If you train enough, you should be able to tell.”
The Times also noted that it is not common for officers to mix up their Tasers and guns, that most police forces — including BCPD — use a variety of protocols to prevent this from happening
Tasers are usually designed with specific features to distinguish them from guns, such as bright color-coating and different styles of grips. According to The Times, the BCPD manual cites three different pistol models as standard-issue, all three of which “weigh significantly more than a typical Taser.”
Those pistols also have a trigger safety that can be felt when touching them, while the Tasers do not. The outlet additionally noted that BCPD protocol requires officers to wear guns on their dominant sides and Tasers on the opposite to prevent exactly this kind of confusion.
Beyond that, Potter’s actions may have violated department policy even if she had used her Taser because the manual says it should not be used on people “whose position or activity may result in collateral injury,” including those “operating vehicles.”
It also says that officers should make “reasonable efforts” to avoid using the stun gun on people in the “head, neck, chest and groin,” but Wright was shot in the chest.
On Tuesday afternoon, it was reported that Potter and Chief Gannon have resigned from the force. The resignations come after Brooklyn Center leaders dismissed the city manager, a decision that could potentially give Mayor Mike Elliot the ability to fire the chief or officers in the department.
The resignations also come amid reports that Potter had been involved in another police-involved shooting in 2019, where she had been “admonished by investigators for allegedly attempting to conceal evidence after a police shooting that left a 21-year-old autistic man dead,” according to The Daily Beast.
As more information comes out surrounding the traffic stop that led to Wright’s death, several pieces of misinformation have also continued to spread on social media.
Most of the false information centers around the warrant for Wrights’ arrest that prompted police to attempt to detain him.
According to reports, court records show that a judge issued the warrant earlier this month after he missed a court appearance for two misdemeanor charges he was facing from last June for carrying a pistol without a permit and running from officers.
Notably, Wright does have a number of past charges filed against him, including two for attempted sale of Marijuana and aggravated robbery. Despite claims by many social media users, those charges were for separate incidents, and the warrant was specifically for failing to appear in court for the June charge.
There has also been a viral video circulating Twitter and TikTok claiming court records show that the hearing notification was sent to the wrong address, seemingly in reference to a piece of mail that had failed to be delivered in his court records.
The mail, however, was actually for a different case and is not connected to the notification for the hearing he missed. While that video is incorrect and county officials maintain that they did send him notification, Wright’s public defender, Arthur Martinez, told reporters his client had never received the notice and that the court had not informed him either.