The family of an unarmed black man who was shot and killed near Brunswick in February is calling for the resignation of the local district attorney. A rally is planned for Friday morning.
Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed when two white men confronted him while he was out jogging. One of those men, Gregory McMichael, is a former investigator for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s office.
That office would normally handle a case in Glynn County, where the shooting took place. But Brunswick DA Jackie Johnson removed herself from the case shortly after the shooting because of McMichael’s history working in her office.
Brunswick NAACP President John Perry said that recusal was not enough and Johnson needs to resign.
“Prior to recusing herself from this case, she should have made sure an arrest was made,” Kerry said. “We see it as a copout and a way to escape what was her rightful duty.”
The next DA assigned to the case, George Barnhill of the nearby Waycross Judicial Circuit, removed himself last month at the request of Arbery’s family. His son works in the Brunswick DA’s office.
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In a letter to Glynn County police recusing himself, Barnhill denied that presented a conflict. Arbery’s mother, he wrote, “believes there are kinships between the parties (there are not) and has made other unfounded allegations of bias(es).”
Barnhill also wrote that there was insufficient probable cause for an arrest of the men involved in the shooting, Gregory and Travis McMichael. He cited Georgia’s law allowing citizen’s arrests and the “No Duty To Retreat” law, known commonly as Stand Your Ground.
The lack of arrests is a major source of anger among protesters and many in the Brunswick area, and many have pointed to Gregory McMichael’s past work in the DA’s office and the police department as a possible explanation.
“We believe strongly that the arrest wasn’t made because of the connections that the McMichaels had with the law enforcement,” said Perry of the Brunswick NAACP. “There’s no other justifiable reason.”
The Atlantic Judicial Circuit is now handling the case. DA Tom Durden said this week he would take it to a grand jury to determine whether to press charges. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation stepped in this week as well, at the urging of Governor Brian Kemp.
But an attorney for Arbery’s parents, Ben Crump, said Wednesday he had “no confidence” in Durden’s office.
“The prosecutorial community in South Georgia is compromised,” Crump said. “This is one of their own that they’re prosecuting.”
The attorneys for the family are calling for a special prosecutor or U.S. Attorney to step in.
In addition calling for the ouster of Brunswick DA Johnson, the Brunswick NAACP and other local leaders are seeking the immediate termination of the Glynn County Police Chief at the time of the shooting, John Powell, accusing him of negligence.
Powell is currently on paid administrative leave following an unrelated indictment that came days after the killing of Arbery. But as the police chief at the time, Kerry of the NAACP said Powell should have ordered arrests to be made.
“Our stance is that there’s no way that he should be getting tax dollars right now considering the fact that he has neglected to operate in the spirit of justice in our, for our community,” Perry said.
A rally calling for Johnson’s resignation is planned Friday morning at the Glynn County courthouse.