Connect with us

U.S.

DOJ Investigating Whether or Not to Pursue Hate Crime Charges in Ahmaud Arbery Case

Published

on

  • On Thursday, the two men who allegedly chased and gunned down unarmed black runner Ahmaud Arbery were arrested for his murder after walking free for more than two months after his death. 
  • On Friday, Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds said that the agency has “sufficient probable cause in this case for felony murder.” 
  • On Saturday, new footage showing Arbery at a house under construction emerged, though the lawyer for Arbery’s family argued he didn’t take anything and that this wasn’t enough to justify his death.
  • On Sunday, state Attorney General Chris Carr asked the DOJ to investigate local authorities’ handling of the case.
  • On Monday, the DOJ announced it was investigating whether or not to issue federal hate crime charges.

McMichaels Arrested for Arbery’s Death

On Monday, Department of Justice spokesperson Kerri Kupec said the agency is “assessing all of the evidence to determine whether federal hate crimes charges are appropriate” in the shooting death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery.

That announcement is part of a series of rapidly-advancing developments in what began as a slow-to-develop story. For more than two months, Gregory and Travis McMichael walked free after allegedly chasing and gunning down Arbery. On Thursday, they were finally charged with murder. 

Their arrests come just two days after a video appearing to capture their confrontation leaked online. 

According to prosecutors, on Feb. 23, Arbery reportedly went out for a jog in the coastal town of Brunswick, Georgia. During that jog, someone called 911, saying they saw Arbery in a house that was under construction. Before the call ended, Arbery had already left the house. 

Shortly thereafter, 64-year-old Gregory McMichael also saw Arbery, believing him to be the culprit behind a recent series of break-ins. He and his 34-year-old son Travis reportedly grabbed a revolver and a shotgun before chasing Arbery down the road in their truck. Minutes later, Arbery was dead after being shot by Travis McMichael as the two fought over the shotgun.

Friday morning, Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds said the agency had found “more than sufficient probable cause in this case for felony murder.” 

At that press conference, Reynolds also addressed questions about potentially arresting a third person. That’s because, according to former prosecutor George Barnhill, another man joined the McMichaels in “hot pursuit” of Arbery. 

Currently, that’s believed to be William Bryan, who filmed that leaked video. Reynolds said that Bryan—along with others—is being investigated. While Reynolds said that more arrests could be made, he also stressed that the agency is going to be guided by facts before making any more arrests.

Bryan’s lawyer has argued that Bryan fully cooperated with the investigation and that he is simply “a witness to the tragic shooting.”

“There had been a number of crimes in the neighborhood, and [Bryan] didn’t recognize [Arbery] and a vehicle that he did recognize was following [Arbery],” that attorney said.

Seemingly countering that testimony, according to a police report, Gregory McMichael said Bryan “attempted to block” Arbery as the men pursued him but “was unsuccessful.”

Video of Arbery in Home Under Construction

On Saturday, several local outlets published more footage of Arbery just before his death. In that footage, a man that appears to be Arbery can be seen going into the house that was under construction.

Notably, he’s only there for a few minutes. He doesn’t appear to take anything. 

In a separate piece of footage, another person runs up to a stand of trees across the street and appears to be watching what’s going on. That footage then ends with Arbery leaving and running back down the street.

After this, the GBI confirmed this video to be part of its investigation, but it wouldn’t say if the first figure in the video was, in fact, Arbery.

Later Saturday, the attorney for Arbery’s family, Lee Merritt, said in a statement that his office does believe the person in the video is Arbery. Still, Merritt said that the existence of such footage is no justification for Arbery’s death.

“He engaged in no illegal activity and remained for only a brief period,” Merritt said. “Ahmaud did not take anything from the construction site. He did not cause any damage to the property.”

Ahmaud’s actions at this empty home under construction were in no way a felony under Georgia law,” he added. “This video confirms that Mr. Arbery’s murder was not justified and the actions of the men who pursued him and ambushed him were unjustified.”

In this time, more videos showing a man that could be Arbery at that house at night have also emerged—some of them reportedly from as far back as October 2019; however, they have not yet been confirmed to show Arbery, and it is unknown why this man was there. Currently, there is little information and large scale reporting on it.

According to Atlanta-based criminal defense lawyer Manny Arora, who spoke with the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, even though Arbery was in that home, that’s not necessarily a crime. At worst, it’s a misdemeanor, unless he was found to have taken anything. 

According to Georgia law, a citizen can arrest a person only if they see that person committing a felony. In most cases, they’re required to use reasonable force to detain a person. Deadly force can only be used to prevent a forcible felony or for self-defense.

Contrary to that law, the McMichaels allegedly initiated this attack with their guns. Arbery was unarmed.

“If you initiate an assault, you don’t get [to] then claim self-defense if the other person reacts to them being assaulted,” Arora said. 

In fact, the evidence that Arbery did not commit a felony in that home on Feb. 23 has been corroborated by the home’s owner, Larry English, who has told media outlets that he has never filed a police report for any stolen property or robbery. 

According to Glynn County police records, there haven’t been any recent burglaries in the neighborhood, except for one filed on Jan. 1 when someone stole a handgun from an unlocked truck parked at the McMichaels’ house.

Georgia AG Asks DOJ to Investigate Arbery Case

Sunday, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr asked the Department of Justice to investigate how local authorities handled this case. 

Much of the criticism around the case and the lack of charges has been pinned back to the fact that not one but two prosecutors recused themselves for potential conflicts of interest because they had professional connections to Gregory McMichael, who is a former Glynn County police officer.

The second prosecutor in the case, Barnhill, reportedly advised police not to arrest the McMichaels as he was removing himself from the investigation.

“It appears their intent was to stop and hold this criminal suspect until law enforcement arrived,” he wrote to police. “Under Georgia Law this is perfectly legal.” 

Now, it is also being reported that Barnhill reportedly told detectives that Arbery’s killing was a “justifiable homicide.” 

That seemingly contradicts with GBI Director Reynolds saying the agency has “sufficient probable cause” for murder.

Monday morning, the DOJ said it’s considering AG Carr’s request, along with its investigation into potentially charging the McMichaels with a hate crime.

Among notable reactions, on Saturday, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Yo Gotti, and Meek Mill all penned a letter through Roc Nation, calling for justice in Arbery’s death. In that letter, the singers address Governor Brian Kemp, AG Carr, and the third prosecutor in the case, Tom Durden.

Though they say the McMichaels’ arrest is “a positive first step on the long road toward justice,” they add that such a development “only strengthens our resolve to see that justice is eventually served.”

In the letter, they also call for Durden to recuse himself and for Carr to appoint a special prosecutor.

Though it’s unknown what effect this letter specifically had, Monday morning, it was reported that Durden would be stepping aside. It was then announced that Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes has been appointed to lead the prosecution against the McMichaels.

See what others are saying: (Atlanta-Journal Constitution) (New York Post) (The Washington Post)

U.S.

Privacy Concerns Rise in Florida Over Menstruation Questions on Digital Student-Athlete Physicals

Published

on

Ever since the overturn of Roe V. Wade, activists have been concerned about how period tracking data can be used against women.


Outrage and Concerns

Florida schools require student-athletes to complete an annual physical evaluation form before being allowed to participate in sports, including questions about female menstruation. Recently, school districts have shifted these forms into a digital format using a third party, causing privacy concerns for parents and activists alike. 

As headlines started to circulate the news, many online began expressing outrage. Lawyer Pam Keith, who ran for U.S. House of Representatives in 2020 referred to Florida as a “police state for women” on Tuesday morning. Other tweets have called this practice “dystopian” and “tramping on women’s rights.”

In Florida, these questions have been on the student-athlete physical evaluation form for approximately 20 years. Now that some school districts have shifted from paper copies to digital formatting with the third-party software company, Aktivate, criticisms have resurfaced across the state. Abortion rights activists, in particular, are worried about menstrual information being used to prosecute someone for getting an abortion. Others vocally oppose storing this information online, citing parents’ rights over their children’s data. 

Florida’s Policy

These questions relating to menstruation are labeled as optional on the document. However, some have expressed concern that athletes will feel obligated to answer them in order to ensure their eligibility to play. 

Florida schools have all of the medical data collected by these physicals sent back to the district from the physician. This is in sharp contrast to the policy of other states that simply require the physician’s approval for the athlete to be cleared to play. 

“I don’t see why school districts need that access to that type of information,” pediatrician Dr. Michael Haller said to The Florida Times-Union. “It sure as hell will give me pause to fill it out with my kid.”

See what others are saying: (Forbes) (The Palm Beach Post) (The Florida Times-Union

Continue Reading

U.S.

Navy SEAL Recruits Sprayed With Tear Gas in “Horrific” Leaked Video

Published

on

The revelation comes after the Navy launched an investigation into SEAL training practices last month in response to the death of a recruit.


The Worst Birthday Ever

In September 2021, Navy SEAL recruits were forced to sing “happy birthday” while standing amid a thick cloud of tear gas as part of their training, a leaked video reveals.

The footage, which was obtained by investigative reporter Mathew Cole and published by CBS News, comes from California’s San Clemente Island, where SEALs are trained.

For over a minute, instructors are seen dousing the recruits in the chemical, sometimes from just inches away, as they struggle to sing. Reports say they were singing so that they could not hold their breath, which regulations incidentally warn may cause a person to pass out.

Although exposure to tear gas is a common right of passage for military recruits, who must learn how to properly don a face mask, it is meant to be sprayed from six feet away to prevent burns and last for no longer than 15 seconds.

The recruits in the video are seen coughing, heaving, and crying out in agony after the gas subsides, and one appears to pass out.

A Navy admiral has reportedly launched an investigation into the video to determine whether the instructors sprayed the gas for too long and from too close, and if they did, whether they were simply unaware of the proper procedure or intended to abuse and punish the recruits, which could be a criminal offense.

Cole wrote in a Twitter thread that he showed the footage to current and retired senior SEAL officers, who described the exercise as “horrific,” “abusive,” “pointless” and “near torture.”

“Current and former SEAL students say they were told the purpose of the exercise, which cause extreme pain, was to simulate how they would react to bullet wounds in combat,” he said. “They were told by BUD/S instructors it was a ‘rite of passage’ and given three attempts to complete it.”

The Death of Kyle Mullen

“The source who provided the video did so because they wanted the Navy, Congress and the public to know that the February 2022 death of Kyle Mullen was not an isolated incident,” Cole Continued.

Mullen was a 24-year-old Navy recruit who arrived in California for the SEALs rigorous selection course in January. In his third week, he reached what’s known as Hell Week, a five-day-long slog through an infamously brutal training regiment that’s killed at least 11 men since 1953.

Trainees spend at least 20 hours per day doing physical exercises, running a total of more than 200 miles, and are allowed just four hours of sleep across the entire week.

Hell Week is meant to test a recruit’s mental and physical resilience, as well as their commitment to becoming a Navy SEAL. Critics, however, argue it is excessively harsh, pointing to the concussions, broken bones, dangerous infections, and near drownings suffered by some recruits.

When Mullen completed Hell Week, he called his mother Regina, who told CBS News her son seemed to be having trouble breathing.

A few hours later, he died with the official cause being pneumonia, which Regina attributed to the freezing water he was submerged in during training.

She also said he admitted to using banned performance-enhancing drugs, something many aspiring SEALs resort to so they can cross the finish line.

Even with drugs, however, around 90% of trainees fail to complete the selection course, with most dropping out during Hell Week.

The same day Kyle died, one of his fellow trainees had to be intubated, and two more were hospitalized.

The Navy launched an investigation into the SEALs selection course last month in response to Kyle’s death.

See what others are saying: (CBS) (NBC) (The New York Times)

Continue Reading

U.S.

Lawyer Claims That LAPD Officer Who Died In Training Was Targeted For Investigating Other Officers For Rape

Published

on

The late officer’s family has filed a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles.


Press Conference Reveals New Allegations

A lawyer for the family of Los Angeles Police officer Houston Tipping, who died in May during a training exercise, claimed on Monday that Tipping was targeted for reporting an alleged sexual assault by four other police officers last year. 

In May, Tipping sustained serious injury — including a broken spine — during training, which resulted in his death three days later. The LAPD released a statement saying his injuries came from a fall taken during a segment of training that involved grappling another officer. 

His family, however, filed a complaint — and later a lawsuit — against the city of Los Angeles. The lawsuit states that Tipping was, “repeatedly struck in the head severely enough that he bled.”

During a Monday press conference, his family’s lawyer, Bradley Gage, claimed that the injuries Tipping sustained could not have been the result of grappling.

“There is no way grappling would have caused those kinds of injuries the way the LAPD portrays it,” he said. “What would cause those injuries is if somebody picked a person up, slams them down onto their head and their neck onto a hard surface.”

An Alleged Cover-Up

According to Gage, an officer that Tipping had reported last year for an alleged sexual assault was also present at this training exercise. 

“The allegation is that in July of 2021, four police officers were involved in the sexual assault of a woman from the Los Angeles area. A report was taken by Officer Tipping,” he said. “And the female victim claimed that she was raped by four different people, all LAPD officers. She knew the names of some of those officers because they were in uniform and had their name tags on. The name of one of those officers, with the name tag, seems to correlate with the names of one of the officers that was at the bicycle training” 

The attorney went on to confirm that he is alleging this unnamed officer is responsible for Tipping’s injuries. 

Later in the press conference, Gage stated that the police department is likely trying to cover-up these misdeeds.  

“I’m sure that these actions are being covered-up. The thought of a code of silence or a cover-up by a police department should not be shocking or surprising to anyone,” he said

Although the initial lawsuit by Tipping’s family included the wrongful death and other civil rights violations, with this new information, the family and the attorney has decided to file a supplemental. This supplemental will cover the whistler blower retaliation, destruction of evidence, and the initial wrongdoing of the rape case. 

See what others are saying: (FOX 11 LA) (Washington Post) (LA Times)

Continue Reading