A year after Arbery slaying, his mother files $1M civil rights lawsuit

Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 2:03 PM CST
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WAYNESBORO, Ga. - A year after a young man with local ties was shot dead in an incident that reignited the Black Lives Matter movement, his mother has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the men accused in the death.

Ahmaud Arbery died after being shot by Travis McMichael on Feb. 23, 2020, in Brunswick.

The lawsuit was filed by Lee Merritt, the attorney of Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother. It claims attempts at a cover-up and delays by prosecutors and law officers.

“Everyone involved in the targeting, murder and cover-up in the case of #AhmaudArbery must pay criminally and civilly,” Merritt tweeted.

The lawsuit seeks $1 million.

Cooper says time does not make the pain go away.

She told News 12 she has to “take it day by day, sometimes hour by hour.”

She says she relies on her faith and God to get her through.

Cooper and others will be remembering Arbery today with a candlelight vigil.

McMichael, along with his father Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan, was arrested and charged in connection with Arbery’s death.

The McMichaels have been charged with felony murder and aggravated assault. Bryan has been charged with felony murder and felony attempt to commit false imprisonment. He recorded video of the incident, although prosecutors believe he played a larger role.

The three were arrested in May 2020, almost three months after Arbery’s death, after a video of the McMichael’s chasing down and killing Arbery went viral. Since then, all three have been held in the Glynn County Jail.

The McMichaels claim they thought Arbery was a burglar; his family says he was jogging.

The case was among the incidents that fielded summer protests against the slaying of Black people by police. Gregory McMichael was a former police officer.

The candlelight vigil for Arbery will be in Waynesboro, where he’s buried. It will begin at 5 p.m. at New Springfield Baptist Church off Hatcher Mill Road.

Anyone is invited. The family just askes that you wear a blue ribbon, since blue was Arbery’s favorite color.

What the prosecution says

We’re also hearing from the new prosecution team on the Arbery case.

Cobb County District Attorney Flynn Broady and his colleagues say they’re focused on bringing justice to Arbery’s family.

In the last few weeks, talks of repealing Georgia’s citizens arrest statue have brought new attention to the case.

Prosecutors say it would not apply in the Arbery case whether it’s on the books or not.

To the leading assistant district attorney, Jesse Evans, the case is clear-cut.

“This case is not going to rise and fall on if there is a racial component to it or not,” Evans said. “I think this case is really about straight up murder and questions about use of force.”

Attorneys say they don’t see this case going to trial before next year.

And right now, they’re still trying to navigate virtual hearings.

But they say the most important thing to them now is getting it right.

The Associated Press contributed to this report