- 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)
SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section
- The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June.
- The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
- Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary.
- It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.
College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay
College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.
Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”
The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary.
While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S.
Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.
With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.
The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test
In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.
In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.
According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.
For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)
Biden To Block Trump’s Order Lifting COVID-19 Travel Ban
- President Trump issued an executive order Monday lifting a ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil.
- Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when the CDC will start requiring all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.
- The move was cheered by the travel industry; however, incoming White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki warned that Biden’s administration does not intend to lift the travel restrictions.
Trump Order End To COVID-19 Travel Ban
President Donald Trump issued an executive order Monday ending his administration’s ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil.
That ban was put in place last spring in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. In his announcement, however, Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when new rules from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention go into effect.
Starting that day, the CDC will require all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.
The recommendation to lift the ban reportedly came from Alex Azar, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. According to Trump’s proclamation, “the Secretary reports high confidence that these jurisdictions will cooperate with the United States in the implementation of CDC’s January 12, 2021, order and that tests administered there will yield accurate results.”
It’s worth noting that the ban will stay in place for travelers from Iran and China. Still, Trump’s announcement was generally cheered by members of the travel industry who have been pushing to lift the ban and require preflight testing instead.
Biden To Block Trump’s Order
Soon after the news broke, the incoming White House press secretary for President-elect Joe Biden, Jennifer Psaki, warned that Biden would block Trump’s order.
“With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” she wrote on Twitter.
“On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26. In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” she added.
With that, it seems unlikely that Trump’s order will actually take effect.
It’s also worth noting that this is one of many executive orders Trump has issued just before inauguration day.
Some of these orders could soon be overturned once Biden takes office Wednesday. Biden is also expected to roll out his own wave of executive orders in his first 10 days as president.
See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (The New York Times) (CNN)
New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns
- The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
- The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
- The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.
CDC Issues Warning
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus.
The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.
Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.
Mitigating Spread of Variant
“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”
The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.
“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.
“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”