- 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)
Biden Issues Targeted Eviction Moratorium for Counties With High Community Transmission
While more limited than the previous eviction ban, the new policy applies to all areas with “substantial” and “high” COVID transmission, which currently includes 80% of counties that compose 90% of the population.
New Eviction Ban
Three days after the federal eviction ban expired, the Biden administration issued a new, more limited moratorium that will extend until Oct. 3.
Unlike the last freeze, the latest version announced Tuesday only pertains to areas of the country experiencing what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labeled “substantial” and “high” cases of COVID-19.
However, the rule still applies to the majority of the country given the new surges driven by the delta variant.
According to the CDC, 80% of counties that make up 90% of the population are currently experiencing substantial or high community transmission.
While not a full ban, many housing still advocates cheered the Biden administration, which has faced immense pressure to help the millions of Americans who risked losing their homes once the previous freeze expired.
“This is a tremendous relief for millions of people who were on the cusp of losing their homes and, with them, their ability to stay safe during the pandemic,” Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in a statement Tuesday.
Still, others noted that there are outstanding issues with the new policy.
First and foremost, while the moratorium covers most Americans, it does not cover all. According to reports, there are counties in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York that are protected from evictions while neighboring counties are not.
The county-to-county patchwork also adds another layer of confusion for many people who are on the brink of eviction or who have already been evicted.
Tenants and landlords are now scrambling to see if the freeze applies to them, and because of the temporary lapse in protection, evictions resumed in some states and cities, meaning that some people who would now be covered under the ban have already been evicted.
Perhaps the most notable obstacle is the fact that the new moratorium will almost certainly face legal challenges.
The Biden administration previously argued that it did not have the jurisdiction to extend the eviction freeze unilaterally, citing a recent decision from the Supreme Court, which ruled that the CDC could not extend the ban past July and that Congressional action was needed.
Three days before the moratorium was set to expire, Biden asked Congress to pass legislation to extend it before leaving for their August recess. Republicans blocked the effort by unanimous consent, and Democratic leaders, frustrated with the president’s last-minute demand that left them with few options, said they did not have enough support for a formal vote.
Biden, for his part, has acknowledged that any freeze that comes from his administration would face this obstacle.
“Any call for [a] moratorium based on the Supreme Court’s recent decision is likely to face obstacles,” he told reporters Tuesday. “I’ve indicated to the CDC, I’d like them to look at other alternatives [other] than the one that is in existence, which the court has declared they’re not going to allow to continue.”
Any legal proceedings, however, will take time, meaning Congress could act before any disputes are resolved. The extended timeframe would also give state and local governments more leeway to distribute the nearly $47 billion in rental aid approved in the last two stimulus packages.
Only $3 billion of the funding has been distributed due to the numerous delays and hurdles municipalities have faced while struggling to create new systems to dole out the much-needed aid.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (CBS News)
Virtually All Emperor Penguins Doomed for Extinction by 2100, Study Finds
The new study comes as the U.S. The Fish and Wildlife Service moves to submit a proposal Wednesday to add the Emperor penguin to its list of threatened species.
Concerns for Emperor Penguins
Nearly all of the world’s emperor penguin colonies may be pushed to the brink of extinction by 2100, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Global Change Biology.
More specifically, researchers behind the study said 98% of the colonies could be gone in the next 80 years if climate change continues causing sea ice to melt at its current pace. About 70% of colonies could die off by 2050, it added.
That is pretty huge news because Emperor penguins — the world’s largest penguin species —are a vital part of the Antarctic food chain. They prey on krill, squid, and small fish, and provide a source of food for leopard seals and killer whales.
However, the birds are particularly vulnerable to climate change because they depend on sea ice for viral activities like breeding, feeding, and molting, along with resting or seeking refuge from predators.
U.S. Moves To Protect the Species
The new study comes as the U.S. government considers adding the Emperor penguin to its list of threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to build off this new research, along with other data, for its proposal on Wednesday. Once published in the Federal Register, the proposal will be open to a 60-day public comment period.
If the classification is granted, the species would receive protections, including a ban on importations of the birds for commercial purposes.
“These penguins are hard hit by the climate crisis, and the U.S. government is finally recognizing that threat,” Sarah Uhlemann, international program director at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, told the Associated Press.
“Climate change, a priority challenge for this Administration, impacts a variety of species throughout the world,” said Martha Williams, principal deputy director of the wildlife service. “The decisions made by policymakers today and during the next few decades will determine the fate of the Emperor penguin.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (AP News)
Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations
The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter
Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.
Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.
DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools
On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.
The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.
DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.
At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.
Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.