The Justice Department on Monday announced it was considering pressing federal hate crimes charges in the killing of African-American Georgia resident Ahmaud Arbery.
“The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia have been supporting and will continue to fully support and participate in the state investigation,” DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement. “We are assessing all of the evidence to determine whether federal hate crimes charges are appropriate.”
Kupec added, “We will continue to assess all information, and we will take any appropriate action that is warranted by the facts and the law.”
Arbery, 26, was shot and killed in a confrontation initiated by Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis, 34, both of whom are white. Gregory McMichael later claimed that the two attempted to conduct a “citizen’s arrest” of Arbery on suspicion of burglary.
However, Arbery “did not take part in any felony, had no illegal substances in his system, was not armed yet was shot three times with a shotgun at close range,” according to a statement by the victim’s family’s lawyers.
Arbery was seen in security camera footage entering the garage of a house under construction in the McMichaels’ neighborhood minutes before the shooting. Arbery then circled to the back of the unfinished house and exited through the front door, without appearing to take anything from the house. A 911 dispatcher sent police to the area after receiving a call about the entry.
A Georgia prosecutor told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the footage did not change the facts of the case, and Georgia’s “citizen’s arrest” rules prevent residents from using deadly force unless in self-defense. The McMichaels initiated the confrontation with Arbery.