A federal grand jury indicted three men on hate crime charges Wednesday in connection with the death of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old Georgia man who was fatally shot last year in an altercation that went viral on social media after footage of it was released.
The Department of Justice indictment accuses the three men — Gregory McMichael, 65, William “Roddie” Bryan, 51, and Travis McMichael, 35 — of targeting Arbery while he was running on a public street because of his race. Each man has been charged with interference of rights, as well as attempted kidnapping.
Gregory and Travis McMichael, who are father and son, have additionally been charged with using, carrying, and brandishing a weapon “in relation to a crime of violence.”
Travis McMichael’s attorney spoke out against the charges, reports The Associated Press.
“There is absolutely nothing in the indictment that identifies how this is a federal hate crime and it ignores without apology that Georgia law allows a citizen to detain a person who was committing burglaries until police arrive,” attorneys Bob Rubin and Jason Sheffield said in a statement Wednesday.
Gregory McMichael’s attorneys have reportedly not released a statement, and Kevin Gough, an attorney for William Bryan, told The Associated Press that he had not yet read the federal indictment and did not have a comment.
The indictment alleges that the McMichaels “armed themselves with firearms, got into a truck, and chased Arbery through the public streets of the neighborhood while yelling at Arbery, using their truck to cut off his route, and threatening him with firearms.” Bryan, according to the Department of Justice, “got into a truck and chased Arbery through the public streets of the neighborhood, and used his truck to cut off Arbery’s route.”
In addition to the interference with rights charges, each of the three men was charged with attempted kidnapping for trying to “restrain Arbery, restrict his free movement, corral and detain him against his will, and prevent his escape,” according to the indictment.
Gregory McMichael, the father of Travis McMichael, told police at the time of the shooting that he and his son pursued a man he believed was a burglary suspect. The elder McMichael also told police that the two men followed Arbery after grabbing weapons, and that neighbor William Bryan joined in the pursuit at some later point.
Arbery was fatally shot after an encounter with Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael. Bryan was in a car behind Arbery shortly before his death, and is the person who captured the video of the fatal altercation.
Wanda Jones, Arbery’s mother, has said that she believes her son was on a jog at the time of his death.
“The family of Ahmaud Arbery is grateful for the fed hate crime charges against the men responsible for his murder,” S. Lee Merritt, the Arbery family’s attorney, said in a statement Wednesday. “These charges will serve as a fail-safe to the state prosecution. Hate claimed Ahmaud’s life. Our justice system must combat intolerance.”
Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William Bryan were arrested last year on separate state charges in connection with Arbery’s death, including charges of malice murder, felony murder, and false imprisonment, per the DOJ. A trial date has not yet been set.
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