Two white men, 64-year-old Gregory McMichael and his 34-year-old son, Travis, are under arrest for the February 23, 2020 shooting death of an unarmed African-American named Ahmaud Arbery, as he jogged through the predominantly white neighborhood in which the Travis’ lived.
The McMichaels’ version of the shooting death is that Travis was forced to kill Arbery in self-defense when the younger black man physically resisted Travis’s attempt to place him under a “citizen’s” arrest for a suspected burglary. Arbery’s version of the event was forever silenced by the two blasts from Travis’s shotgun.
McMichael’s 30 Years Law of Enforcement Raises Questions
Gregory McMichael had a three-decade career in law enforcement. The public record contains information that his “law enforcement status” was stripped from him in February 2019. This came after 15 years of on-duty negligence. The facts behind this official negligence are these:
- When he left the police squad car, McMichael was hired as an “investigator” by Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson, a personal friend of the McMichael family.
- Georgia law enforcement personnel are required to undergo training exercises provided by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC), including required training in the use of firearms and deadly force under FLETC’s states’ Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST).
- McMichael neglected to undergo the required POST certification process during his career as a police law enforcement officer—a practice he continued after being hired by DA Johnson.
- In 2014, DA Johnson was informed that McMichael has failed to undergo his POST certification in 2005, 2006, 2009, and 2010.
- Johnson interceded with POST Director Mitch Jones to secure a “waiver” of the POST certification for McMichael in 2014.
- Johnson continued McMichaels’ employment in her office as an investigator for the next five years until McMichaels’ POST certification was suspended in February 2019.
- Johnson secured a non-law enforcement assignment for McMichaels in the Camden County District Attorney’s Office, about an hour’s drive from Brunswick.
- McMichael retired in the spring of 2019, apparently dissatisfied with the new non-law enforcement assignment in Camden County.
Travis McMichael was reared by a father who did not respect or fulfill his required duties and responsibilities as a law enforcement officer and a criminal investigator. McMichael was reckless in his official, professional duties as his disregard for licensing requirements would make an excellent line of questioning by a skilled criminal defense attorney.
Official Disregard for the Law
It can reasonably be assumed that Gregory McMichael assured his son that, as a police officer, he could do pretty much as he pleased when enforcing “the law.”
Certainly, this “bad boys” mentality prompted Gregory McMichael to secure his firearm and call Travis to come to the father’s home on February 23. The McMichaels, both men armed (Travis with a shotgun), jumped into a pickup truck and began their search for the “black jogger” they believed was responsible for at least one or more burglaries in their neighborhood.
Gregory McMichael “racially profiled” Ahmaud Arbery. It was in his “us against them” DNA. The ex-cop had never witnessed Arbery engaged in any criminal activity, much less any illegal activity on February 23.
“Tough on crime” people like Gregory McMichael believe that racial profiling of a person of color, particularly an African-American in a predominantly white neighborhood in Georgia, is sufficient investigation to create probable cause. They run the numbers and use racial profiling to find reasonable suspicion to initiate an arrest, albeit a “citizen’s arrest” in the Arbery case.
Citizens Arrest Leaves Citizen Murdered
The public record’s factual chronology supports the conclusion that Gregory McMichael is both a racist and a coward. At some point, he saw Arbery jogging through the neighborhood on February 23. The ex-cop did not confront the lone African American himself to make a reasonable inquiry. Instead, he called his much younger son, told him what he “suspected” about Arbery, and instructed him to come with his shotgun. Only then did the father/son take off after Arbery.
The McMichaels claim “self-defense during an attempted “citizen’s arrest.” That bucket doesn’t hold water.
First, there was no basis for a citizen’s arrest other than the McMichaels are white, and Arbery was a black man jogging in their “white” neighborhood. Second, the McMichaels say that Arbery physically resisted the attempted citizens’ arrest, forcing Travis McMichael to shoot him in self-defense. In actuality, Arbery resisted an armed white man jumping out of a pickup truck with a shotgun in hand demanding that the black man stop and answer the armed white man’s questions.
Regardless of the political influence and law enforcement access the McMichaels enjoy in Brunswick, Georgia, the above core facts will never change. Ahmaud Arbery had an “inalienable” right to jog where he pleased without interference from the McMichaels’ racism. A white resident in a white neighborhood does not have an “inalienable” right to stop and question a black man because they think the black man looks like a “burglary suspect.”
Federal Hate Crime
That raises the question of whether the murder of Ahmaud Arbery was a federal “hate” crime. The U.S. Justice Department defines a hate crime as:
“The term ‘hate’ can be misleading. When used in a hate crime law, the word ‘hate’ does not mean rage, anger, or general dislike. In this context, ‘hate’ means bias against people or groups with specific characteristics that are defined by the law.
“At the federal level, hate crime laws include crimes committed on the basis of the victim’s perceived or actual race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.
“Most state hate crime laws include crimes committed on the basis of race, color, and religion; many also include crimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and disability.”
Georgia is one of four states—all of which are Southern states except for Wyoming—that does not have a “hate crime” law. That is not surprising given that Georgia is a state, like many others in the south, with a long history of giving the “white man” a license to lynch a “black man,” for little more than a claim of threat. That is what happened to Ahmaud Arbery on February 23—two white men lynched him because he exercised his right to jog in a white neighborhood.
Will U.S. Attorney General William Barr allow federal hate crime charges against the McMichaels?
Barr’s Justice Department’s decision-making in the criminal justice system has been systematically racist. The Department’s latest policy deals with the release of “non-violent” federal inmates during the COVID pandemic. The Barr release policy allows that 30 percent of white inmates to qualify for the non-violent category. In comparison, only 7 percent of black inmates qualify for that same category.
One can only hope that the Georgia justice system will bring “justice” to the Arbery family—but given the state’s sordid history of racism, such justice will not likely happen without intense public attention and pressure.