This case has been evolving ever since it was resurrected last Tuesday. What has happened since then?
Originally, the story of Ahmaud Arbery was that of an unarmed black man going for a run, murdered by two white supremacists. Since then, new information has come out, on many outlets including this one, casting doubt on that narrative. Most of it was simply logical reasoning, like why would he do A if B was true, etc. But now, we have CCTV footage showing that Ahmaud Arbery was indeed trespassing and burglarizing a home in the neighborhood under construction, not going for a jog like previously argued.
In the video, Arbery seems to be surveying his surroundings. It is said that he remained for 3 minutes before leaving. Later in the YouTube clip, the reporter on the call says that the attorney’s office argued that while the footage is indeed Arbery, he was still unjustly hunted down and murdered. But one more time, let’s take at look at what each party did, and how it lines up with the law.
Gregory and Travis McMichael’s neighborhood had been reporting multiple break-ins for a long time before February 23, and moreover, their neighborhood is the 7th most dangerous in Georgia. When they spotted a man who resembled the previously reported burglar running down the street, the police was called. The McMichaels had no idea if Arbery was armed, so they gathered their firearms just in case. Georgia law says this about openly carrying firearms in their state:
They then went to enact a citizens’ arrest, where citizens assist police’s efforts to arrest a suspect by detaining them until police arrive. Georgia law says this about citizens’ arrests:
O.C.G.A. 17-4-60 (2010)
17-4-60. Grounds for arrest
A private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge. If the offense is a felony and the offender is escaping or attempting to escape, a private person may arrest him upon reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion.
Considering the McMichaels had reasonable suspicion that Arbery committed trespassing and burglary, and he was indeed escaping, they were well within their rights to attempt to arrest him. Finally, what about the killing? Georgia law says this about self defense or “standing your ground”:
O.C.G.A. 16-3-23.1 (2010)
16-3-23.1. No duty to retreat prior to use of force in self-defense
A person who uses threats or force in accordance with Code Section 16-3-21, relating to the use of force in defense of self or others, Code Section 16-3-23, relating to the use of force in defense of a habitation, or Code Section 16-3-24, relating to the use of force in defense of property other than a habitation, has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and use force as provided in said Code sections, including deadly force.
Self defense is legal in Georgia, but was it a self defense situation? On the footage released initially of the shooting, Arbery was running in the direction of the McMichaels’ pulled-over truck, circled around the hood on someone’s yard, and charged Travis McMichael, who was holding his shotgun, not pointing it at anyone. Travis was yelling, “Stop, we want to talk to you!” Arbery reached for his shotgun, and tried to rip it from his hands. This is evident from the fact that Arbery was shot in the hand during the tussle, in which overall Arbery was shot 3 times. Moreover, logically speaking, a hand is a small target, and makes no sense to aim for. If he was shot in the hand, there is almost no chance that it was intentional.
One can argue whether it was the right thing to do to attempt the citizen’s arrest, but one thing is certain: The McMichaels broke no laws. On the other hand:
Arbery was seen on CCTV inside a home under construction that clearly wasn’t his home. Under Georgia law, trespassing and burglary are classified as:
O.C.G.A. 16-7-21 (2010)
16-7-21. Criminal trespass
(a) A person commits the offense of criminal trespass when he or she intentionally damages any property of another without consent of that other person and the damage thereto is $500.00 or less or knowingly and maliciously interferes with the possession or use of the property of another person without consent of that person.
(b) A person commits the offense of criminal trespass when he or she knowingly and without authority:
(1) Enters upon the land or premises of another person or into any part of any vehicle, railroad car, aircraft, or watercraft of another person for an unlawful purpose;
(2) Enters upon the land or premises of another person or into any part of any vehicle, railroad car, aircraft, or watercraft of another person after receiving, prior to such entry, notice from the owner, rightful occupant, or, upon proper identification, an authorized representative of the owner or rightful occupant that such entry is forbidden; etc.
Universal Citation: GA Code § 16-7-1 (2014)
(b) A person commits the offense of burglary in the first degree when, without authority and with the intent to commit a felony or theft therein, he or she enters or remains within an occupied, unoccupied, or vacant dwelling house of another or any building, vehicle, railroad car, watercraft, aircraft, or other such structure designed for use as the dwelling of another. A person who commits the offense of burglary in the first degree shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than 20 years. Upon the second conviction for burglary in the first degree, the defendant shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than two nor more than 20 years. Upon the third and all subsequent convictions for burglary in the first degree, the defendant shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than five nor more than 25 years.
It is quite evident that Arbery had already committed trespassing and burglary to some degree. And finally, when he charged Travis, he committed battery. From the law:
O.C.G.A. 16-5-23.1 (2010)
(a) A person commits the offense of battery when he or she intentionally causes substantial physical harm or visible bodily harm to another.
(b) As used in this Code section, the term “visible bodily harm” means bodily harm capable of being perceived by a person other than the victim and may include, but is not limited to, substantially blackened eyes, substantially swollen lips or other facial or body parts, or substantial bruises to body parts.
Arbery was swinging, and Travis had plenty of reason to believe it was going to get a lot worse if he let him continue.
So let’s tally it up. The McMichaels committed 0/3 possible crimes. Arbery committed 3/3 possible crimes. That should say it all right there. And before anyone claims that the justice system is racist or the McMichaels only got off because of white privilege, their so-called “white privilege” should have prevented the mass public outcry and the DOJ investigating whether or not to pursue hate crime charges, but alas, here we are.
In the aftermath of all this outrage, let justice prevail. Let us not punish law-abiding citizens because of racial grievances. Who have we become? A people who will throw the law out the window if someone who happens to be of a different race is killed? On a wider scale, part of the reason Donald Trump was elected was because the American people wanted law and order. They were tired of the legal anarchy allowed by the Democrats for their political gain. The mandate is there, then, to continue enforcing the law as is. Will we allow ourselves to be strayed by ideology and dishonest political actors, ignoring what we voted for? Instead, what has been discussed today should seal the deal.