Jada Urbaez, Staff
The three men who killed Ahmaud Arbery, Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., were convicted of federal hate crimes last week.
The murder took place on the coast of Georgia on Feb. 23, 2020. Brunswick, GA had been home to Arbery and his family since his “peewee football days,” says Aaron Morrison, a reporter who sat with the victim’s family.
On that February day, Arbery, 25, was going on an afternoon jog in a surrounding neighborhood known as Satilla Shores. Gregory McMichael reported to police that Arbery had fit the description for the suspect who allegedly committed break-ins in the area. The suspects claimed to have been doing a citizen’s arrest. The police confirmed there had been no break-ins, and therefore there was never a suspect.
Travis and Gregory McMichael were both armed with a pistol and shotgun when they surrounded Arbery with their truck. Bryan Jr. joined the McMichaels in this encounter, utilizing his pickup truck, and three shots were fired by Travis McMichael, killing Arbery.
The McMichaels were arrested over two months later, on May 7, and Bryan Jr. was arrested on May 21, 2020. The three men were indicted by the state of Georgia on nine counts. These include: one count of false imprisonment, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of malice murder and one count of criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
According to Georgia state law, malice murder is commited when one, “unlawfully and with malice aforethought, either express or implied, causes the death of another human being.” Travis and Gregory McMichael are sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. Bryan Jr., the third suspect who later joined and filmed the Arbery encounter, would be eligible for parole after thirty years.
Last week, however, a federal jury found the three murderers guilty of federal hate crimes. To convict someone of a hate crime, the jury must see if the actions of the suspects were racially motivated.
What aided in this conviction was a suspects’ internet usage that shows a history of racial slurs, offensive/racist memes and conversations. For many consecutive years, Bryan wrote content that mocked Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Travis McMichael left a comment in a 2018 Facebook post, “I’d kill that (expletive).” Gregory McMichael shared a post that implied disregard for slaves’ suffering in the U.S. The post said that Irish slaves suffered more than any race in American history.
In addition to internet use, there is direct evidence provided by witnesses who testified and shared that they heard the suspects make racist comments and slurs.
The case’s prosecutor, Christopher Perras, stated that there was no evidence that 25-year-old Arbery was a threat, but the suspects assumed so because he was Black. The suspects pleaded not guilty to the hate crime charges, but were found guilty and must serve their respective sentences for their murder charges.