AP

US indicts 3 on hate crime charges in death of Georgia man

Apr 28, 2021, 3:12 PM | Updated: 3:16 pm

Wanda Cooper-Jones kneels before the grave of her son, Ahmaud Arbery, at the New Springfield Baptis...

Wanda Cooper-Jones kneels before the grave of her son, Ahmaud Arbery, at the New Springfield Baptist Church in Waynesboro, Ga., on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, to mark the one year anniversary of Ahmaud Arbery's death in Brunswick, Ga. Please use the following info for a second sentence in the cutline. Georgia lawmakers voted Wednesday, March 31, 2021 to repeal Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law after the law was raised as a defense for the men accused of shooting Ahmaud Arbery near Brunswick, Georgia in February 2020. (AP Photo/Lewis M. Levine, file)

(AP Photo/Lewis M. Levine, file)

The Justice Department has announced federal hate crime charges in the death of a Georgia man who was killed while out for a run last year.

The criminal case charging the three men in connection with the death of Ahmaud Arbery is the most significant civil rights prosecution undertaken to date by the Biden administration Justice Department.

It comes as federal officials have moved quickly to open civil rights investigations into troubled police departments.

Arbery, 25, was fatally shot while running through a neighborhood near Brunswick on the Georgia coast in February 2020.

The father and son who pursued Arbery — Greg and Travis McMichael — weren’t arrested or charged until more than two months after the shooting. One prosecutor assigned to the case cited Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law to argue that the shooting was justified.

The McMichaels’ lawyers have said they pursued Arbery suspecting he was a burglar, after security cameras had previously recorded him entering a home under construction. They said Travis McMichael shot Arbery while fearing for his life as they grappled over a shotgun. The McMichaels are charged with murder.

Video of the fatal encounter was recorded by William “Roddie” Bryan, a neighbor who joined the chase and is also charged with murder.

Prosecutors have said Arbery stole nothing and was merely out jogging when the McMichaels and Bryan chased him. They remain jailed without bail.

Repercussions from Arbery’s death

Georgia lawmakers voted Wednesday, March 31, 2021 to repeal Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law after the law was raised as a defense for the men accused of shooting Ahmaud Arbery near Brunswick, Georgia in February 2020.

The state House voted 169-0 to approve Senate changes to House Bill 479, sending it to Gov. Brian Kemp for his expected signature. The legislation was one of the top legislative priorities this session in the aftermath of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.

“I look forward to signing it into law as we continue to send a clear message that the Peach State will not tolerate sinister acts of vigilantism in our communities,” the Republican governor said in a statement.

Many see the legislation as a continuation of an effort last year that gave Georgia a new hate crimes law, more than 15 years after the state Supreme Court overturned the state’s first attempt. The pressure for the hate crimes law became overwhelming last year after a public outcry over Arbery’s fatal shooting, which was recorded on video.

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US indicts 3 on hate crime charges in death of Georgia man