- 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)
After Uvalde, Politicians, Public Figures, Gun Violence Survivors, and More Call For Change
“When are we going to do something?” Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr asked during an emotional plea at a press conference.
Uvalde Shooting Kills 21 People
Democratic politicians, activists, and many others are calling for gun reform in the United States after 19 children and two teachers were killed in a Tuesday shooting at Robb Hill Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
The 18-year-old suspected gunman was reportedly killed by officers. The massacre marks the 27th school shooting of 2022, according to Education Week.
It also comes just a week and a half after 10 people were killed in a shooting in Buffalo, New York, and another shooting in a Southern California church left one person dead and several others injured.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Ct.) spoke fervently on the Senate floor Tuesday, slamming his colleagues for refusing to pass gun control legislation that could prevent future shootings.
“What are we doing?” he asked of his fellow lawmakers. “Why do you spend all this time running for the United States Senate? Why do you through all the hassle of getting this job, of putting yourself in a position of authority, if your answer is, as the slaughter increases, as kids run for their lives, we do nothing? What are we doing?
“Why are you here if not to solve a problem as existential as this?” he continued. “This isn’t inevitable. These kids weren’t unlucky. This only happens in this country.”
“And it is a choice. It is our choice.”
President Joe Biden likewise urged action by supporting the now-expired assault weapons ban.
“We can do more. We must do more,” he added.
Public Figures And Shooting Survivors Speak Out
The demands for change spread far past political figures. Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr took time out of a pre-game press conference to passionately plead for common-sense gun control. He specifically called on Senators to vote on H.R. 8, a background check bill previously passed in the House.
“When are we going to do something?” Kerr asked while slamming his hands on the table.
“I ask you, Mitch McConnell, I ask all of you senators who refuse to do anything about the violence and school shootings and supermarket shootings. I ask you: Are you going to put your own desire for power ahead of the lives of our children and our elderly and our churchgoers?” Kerr continued. “Because that’s what it looks like.”
He went on to say that Americans, who largely support background checks, are “being held hostage by 50 Senators who refuse to even put it to a vote.”
Grammy Award-winning musician Taylor Swift shared his message, adding that she is filled with “rage and grief” not just from the shootings, but by “the ways in which we, as a nation, have become conditioned to unfathomable and unbearable heartbreak.”
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” tweeted David Hogg, an activist and survivor of the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida. “The way we will make this time different is by Americans on both sides of the aisle collaborating on what we can agree on to get something done even if small. Kids are dying we have to do something.”
Manuel Oliver, the father of one of the children lost in the Parkland shooting, slammed the inaction of politicians in an interview on CBS News.
“The families don’t need your freaking hearts,” Oliver said. “They need their kids, and the kids are not there anymore. So I feel very angry and offended and I just don’t understand how come a whole society doesn’t wake up.”
People impacted by the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting also spoke out, including Mary Ann Jacob, who worked as a librarian at the school during the shooting.
“I’m so sorry those deaths did not change our world,” Jacob wrote.
Texas-based figures felt especially compelled to stand up as the tragedy hit so close to home. Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey, whose hometown is Uvalde, wrote a message on social media asking Americans to “take a longer and deeper look in the mirror and ask ourselves, ‘What is it that we truly value?’”
“We have tragically proven that we are failing to be responsible for the rights our freedoms grant us,” McConaughey wrote.
“Action must be taken so that no parent has to experience what the parents in Uvalde and the others before them have endured.”
Fellow Texas native Selena Gomez also took to social media to argue for action.
“If children aren’t safe at school where are they safe? It’s so frustrating and I’m not sure what to say anymore,” the “Only Murders in the Building” star wrote on her Instagram story. “Those in power need to stop giving lip service and actually change the laws to prevent these shootings in the future.”
We make it a point to not include the names and pictures of those who may have been seeking attention or infamy and will not link out to websites that might contain such information.
Lawmakers Call For Action as Oil Companies Post Record Profits Amid Rising Gas Prices
A recent analysis from the Center for American Progress found that the top five oil companies earned over 300% more in profits during the first quarter of 2022 than the same period last year.
As Consumer Prices Climb, Big Oil Profits
American oil companies are facing increased scrutiny over profiteering practices as gas prices continue to surpass record highs driven by Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
Last week, costs surged to above $4 per gallon in all 50 states for the first time ever, according to the auto club AAA. Prices are currently averaging over $4.59 per gallon nationwide, which is 50% higher than they were this time last year.
In addition to consumers hurting at the pump, there are also rising concerns for industries that rely on fuel and oil like trucking, freight, airlines, and plastic manufacturers.
To account for high prices, some in sectors have responded by ramping up prices further down the supply chain to account for costs, putting even more of a burden on consumers to pay for everyday items.
But as Americans struggle with sky-high gas prices at a time of record inflation, recently released earnings reports show that many of the world’s largest oil companies thrived in the first quarter of 2022.
ExxonMobil more than doubled its earnings from the same period last year, reporting a net profit of $5.5 billion. Meanwhile, Chevron logged its best quarterly earnings in almost a decade, and Shell had its highest earnings ever.
According to a new analysis conducted by the Center for American Progress, the top five oil companies — including the three mentioned above — earned over 300% more in profits this quarter than during the same time last year.
“In fact, these five companies’ first-quarter profits alone are equivalent to almost 28 percent of what Americans spent to fill up their gas tanks in the same time period,” the report noted.
Per Insider, for at least four of those companies, that growth marks a tremendous increase in profits from even before the pandemic.
Lawmakers Ramp-Up Efforts to Reduce Prices
To address these startling disparities, federal lawmakers have moved in recent weeks to increase pressure on oil companies and take steps to lower prices.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a bill proposed by Rep. Katie Porter (D-Ca.) that aims to reduce gas prices. The legislation, called The Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act, would give the president the authority to issue an Energy Emergency Declaration that would be effective for up to 30 days with the possibility of being renewed.
In that emergency period, it would be illegal for anyone to increase gas or home energy fuel prices to a level that is exploitative or “unconscionably excessive.”
The proposal would also give the Federal Trade Commission the power to investigate and manage instances of price gouging from larger companies and give state authorities the ability to enforce price-gouging violations in civil courts.
The bill, which has already seen widespread opposition from Republicans and extensive lobbying from pro-oil interest groups, faces an uphill battle in the 50-50 split Senate.
During debate on the act Thursday, Rep. Porter delivered an impassioned speech accusing oil companies of driving their record profits by using their market power to unfairly increase prices.
“The oil and gas industry currently has more than 9,000 permits to drill for oil on federal land, but they are deliberately keeping production low to please their investors and increase their short-term profits,” she said. “Even when the price of crude oil falls, oil and gas companies have refused to pass those savings on to consumers.”
“Let me be clear: price gouging is anti-capitalist,” Porter continued. “It exploits a lack of competition, which is a hallmark of capitalism. It is an effort to juice corporate profits at the expense of customers. Energy markets are reeling because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Big oil companies, however, are using this temporary chaos to cover up their abuse.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Vox) (NPR)
Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances
Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.
One of the Only Historically Black Colleges in the Midwest Goes Down
After 157 years of educating mostly Black students in Illinois, Lincoln College will close its doors for good on Friday.
The college made the announcement last month, citing financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a ransomware attack in December.
Enrollment dropped during the pandemic and the administration had to make costly investments in technology and campus safety measures, according to a statement from the school.
A shrinking endowment put additional pressure on the college’s budget.
The ransomware attack, which the college has said originated from Iran, thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data. Systems for recruitment, retention, and fundraising were completely inoperable at a time when the administration needed them most.
In March, the college paid the ransom, which it has said amounted to less than $100,000. But according to Lincoln’s statement, subsequent projections showed enrollment shortfalls so significant the college would need a transformational donation or partnership to make it beyond the present semester.
The college put out a request for $50 million in a last-ditch effort to save itself, but no one came forward to provide it.
A GoFundMe aiming to raise $20 million for the college only collected $2,452 as of Tuesday.
Students and Employees Give a Bittersweet Goodbye
“The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense,” David Gerlach, the college’s president, said in a statement.
Lincoln counts nearly 1,000 enrolled students, and those who did not graduate this spring will leave the institution without degrees.
Gerlach has said that 22 colleges have worked with Lincoln to accept the remaining students, including their credits, tuition prices, and residency requirements.
“I was shocked and saddened by that news because of me being a freshman, so now I have to find someplace for me to go,” one student told WMBD News after the closure was announced.
When a group of students confronted Gerlach at his office about the closure, he responded with an emotional speech.
“I have been fighting hard to save this place,” he said. “But resources are resources. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”
On April 30, alumni were invited back to the campus to revisit the highlights of their college years before the institution closed.
On Saturday, the college held its final graduation ceremony, where over 200 students accepted their diplomas and Quentin Brackenridge performed the Lincoln Alma Mater.
Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.