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Prosecutor says racism drove men to hunt and kill Ahmaud Arbery: live updates

Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

Three white men were convicted in November of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, after suspecting him of carrying out a series of break-ins in their South Georgia neighborhood. The men were sentenced to life in prison in January and now face federal hate crime charges.

Here’s what we know about the circumstances of Mr. Arbery’s death.

Ahmaud Arbery, a former high school football player, lived with his mother outside of the small town of Brunswick, Georgia. He had spent some time in college but seemed to be on a drift in his twenties, testing various careers, working on his rapping skills and living with his mother. He also suffered from a mental illness that caused him auditory hallucinations.

On Sunday, February 23, 2020, shortly before 1 p.m., Mr. Arbery was running in a suburban neighborhood called Satilla Shores, when a man standing in his front yard saw him pass, according to a police report. The man, Gregory McMichael, said he thought Mr Arbery looked like a man suspected of several burglaries in the area and called Travis McMichael, his son.

According to the police report, the men grabbed a .357 Magnum handgun and a shotgun, got into a pickup truck and chased Mr. Arbery, trying unsuccessfully to cut him. A third man, William Bryan, also joined the chase in a second truck, according to the report and other documents.

In a recording of a 911 call, which appears to have been made moments before the chase began, a neighbor told a dispatcher that a black man was inside a house under construction on the block of the McMichaels.

During the chase, the McMichaels shouted, “Stop, stop, we want to talk to you,” according to Gregory McMichael’s account in the police report. They then pulled up to Mr. Arbery and Travis McMichael got out of the truck with the shotgun.

Gregory McMichael “said the unidentified man began violently attacking Travis and the two men then began fighting over the shotgun, at which point Travis fired a shot, then a second later , there was a second shot,” the report said.

Mr. Arbery was unarmed.

Shortly after the shooting, Brunswick Circuit Court Attorney Jackie Johnson recused herself because Gregory McMichael had worked in her office.

The case was sent to George E. Barnhill, the district attorney for Waycross, Georgia, who later recused himself after Mr Arbery’s mother argued he had a conflict because her son was working also for the District Attorney of Brunswick.

But before dropping the case, Mr Barnhill wrote a letter to the Glynn County Police Department. In the letter, he argued there was not sufficient probable cause to arrest Mr Arbery’s pursuers.

Mr. Barnhill noted that the McMichaels were legally carrying their firearms under Georgia’s open carry law. He said they were within their rights to pursue what he called “a burglary suspect” and cited a state law that says, “A private person may arrest a violator if the offense is committed in his presence or to his immediate knowledge”. This so-called Citizens’ Arrest Act was largely dismantled in response to the Arbery case.

Mr Barnhill also argued that if Mr Arbery attacked Travis McMichael, Mr McMichael was “authorized to use deadly force to protect himself” under Georgia law.

Anger over the murder and the lack of consequences for the McMichaels grew when a graphic video surfaced showing the shooting on a suburban road.

The cellphone video, shot by Mr Bryan, is about half a minute long. It shows Mr. Arbery running along a shaded two-lane residential road when he comes across a white truck, with Travis McMichael standing next to the open driver’s side door with a shotgun. Gregory McMichael is in the bed of the pickup with a handgun.

Mr. Arbery runs around the truck and briefly disappears from view. Muffled screams can be heard before Mr. Arbery emerges, fighting with Travis McMichael outside the truck as three shotgun blasts ring out.

Mr. Arbery tries to run but staggers and falls to the sidewalk after a few steps.

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Rodney N.

The author Rodney N.