Three white men were sentenced, Friday, January 7, to life imprisonment for having pursued and then killed a young black jogger, Ahmaud Arbery, whom they said to have suspected of being a burglar, in February 2020 in Georgia, in the southern United States.
Travis McMichael, 35 and perpetrator of the fatal shots, and his father, Gregory McMichael, 66, were given life sentences without the possibility of early release. Their neighbor William Bryan, 52, who participated in the chase by filming it, was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of requesting early release after thirty years in prison.
Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was out “To jog and he ended up running to save his life”, said Judge Timothy Walmsley when handing down the sentence.
The three men were convicted of murder on November 24, 2021, after debates marked by the issue of racism and the right to self-defense.
A state deeply marked by racism
Before the judge, Ahmaud Arbery’s family had demanded a “Maximum punishment”, Friday morning. They “Took aim at my son because they didn’t want him in their neighborhood”, assured Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones. Lawyers for the three men have pleaded an unintentional act one last time.
On February 23, 2020, the young man was jogging in Brunswick, a coastal town in southeast Georgia, when he was chased by the three men in their cars. After an altercation, Travis McMichael opened fire and killed the jogger who was trying to grab his rifle. He had claimed to have acted in self-defense.
The defendants had assured to have taken Ahmaud Arbery for a burglar, after seeing him a few days before entering a house under construction. They also invoked an old law that allows ordinary citizens to arrest a suspect in Georgia.
In this state still deeply marked by racism and segregation, the three men had benefited from the leniency of the services of the local prosecutor, for whom Gregory McMichael had long worked, who had left them free. It took the release in May of the video filming the young man’s death for the investigation to be entrusted to the state police and the three men to be arrested.
Ahmaud Arbery’s name was chanted in major anti-racist protests held across the country in the summer of 2020, after the death of George Floyd, an African-American killed by a white policeman.
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Death of Ahmaud Arbery: three white men sentenced to life in prison for murder of African-American jogger