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Former cop charged in Georgia shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery previously investigated him

Greg McMichael had a previous connection with the victim that he didn't tell police.

Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Greg McMichael, a former Georgia police officer and one of the two men charged in the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, helped prosecute the victim in the past, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

McMichael, 64, was a Glynn County cop and an investigator for Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson before retiring in April 2019. During his time working for the DA's office, McMichael helped prosecute Arbery, but he did not disclose this prior connection with Arbery to police officials during their investigation.

Arbery was sentenced to five years' probation as a first offender on charges of carrying a weapon on campus, and several counts of obstructing a law enforcement officer when he was in high school. In 2018, Arbery was convicted of a probation violation after he was charged with shoplifting, according to court documents.

Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson recused herself from the Arbrey case because Greg McMichael previously worked in her office. Waycross DA George E. Barnhill received the Arbery case, but he also recused himself from the case after pressure from the Arbery family.

Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution she wanted Barnhill off the case because his son was a prosecutor for the Brunswick District Attorney's office.

"I just looked him up on Facebook and saw this son worked for the Brunswick DA," Cooper Jones said.

In his letter of recusal to Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, Barnhill wrote that his son and McMichael "both helped with the previous prosecution of (Ahmaud) Arbery." Barnhill said that he learned about his son and McMichael's connection to Arbery "three or four weeks" earlier.

Before recusing himself, Barnhill wrote that his office did "not see grounds for an arrest" of any parties involved in the shooting on Feb. 23, according to WJXT-TV.

Greg McMichael's son, Travis McMichael, 34, was seen in the graphic video confronting the unarmed Arbery, 25, before three shots are fired. Greg McMichael was seen on the bed of the pickup truck that was on a residential street in Brunswick in southern Georgia.

Arbery's mother believes her son, a former football player, was simply jogging in the Satilla Shores neighborhood before he was killed.

On Thursday, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced that they had arrested the father and son for the murder of Arbery.

"Gregory and Travis McMichael have been arrested this evening for aggravated assault and the murder of Ahmaud Arbery," Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said in a statement. "We are grateful the Georgia Bureau of investigation has taken quick and decisive action."

"This tragedy cannot be undone, but this is the first step in what I am confident will be a swift road to justice," Carr said.

"On February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery was in the Satilla Shores neighborhood in Brunswick, GA, when both Gregory and Travis McMichael confronted Arbery with two firearms. During the encounter, Travis McMichael shot and killed Arbery," the GBI news release stated.

(Content warning: Disturbing and violent video):

Video shows fatal Brunswick shooting of Ahmaud Arbery www.youtube.com

The video was filmed by William "Roddie" Bryan, and investigators are looking into his role in the confrontation.

Vic Reynolds, the director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, said Friday it would continue investigating the death of Arbery, including Bryan.

"We are going to go wherever the evidence takes us," Reynolds said during a news conference Friday. "In a perfect world, we would have preferred to have been asked to become involved in February, of course."

An attorney for Arbery's family has called for Bryan to be arrested. Bryan, Greg McMichael, and his son are white and Arbery is black.

McMichael told Glynn police there had been a string of robberies in the neighborhood, and that he recognized Arbery from surveillance video that captured a recent burglary in the area. McMichael told authorities that he was going to make a citizen's arrest on Arbery.

Investigators have not provided any proof that Arbery was involved with any of the local burglaries.

"They have made reference to ongoing burglaries in this community, but some obscure, indistinct crime in the community does not empower the entire community to hunt down black men," Lee Merritt, Arbery's family attorney, told WJXT. "These men were not performing any police function or any duty as a citizen of the state of Georgia. These men were vigilantes. They were a posse and they were performing a lynching in the middle of the day."

"This speaks to the wider issue of mass incarceration," Merritt said of anyone bringing up Arbery's previous criminal record. "If black people have any kind of criminal record somehow that justifies their murder."

"We are livid that he even attempted to taint this case with his rancid opinion about why this is justifiable," Merritt added.

The death of Arbery in Georgia has received national attention and outrage. On Friday, President Donald Trump commented on the situation.

"I saw the tape and it's very, very disturbing," Trump told Fox News. "It's a heartbreak ... very rough, rough stuff. Justice getting done is what solves that problem. It's in the hands of the governor and I'm sure he'll do the right thing."

One last thing…
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