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Remembering Ahmaud Arbery two years after his death

Published: Feb. 23, 2022 at 12:08 PM CST
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BRUNSWICK, Ga. - A new resolution has designated Feb. 23 as Ahmaud Arbery Day in Georgia.

The day debuts just one day after a jury found the young Black man’s killers guilty of violating his civil rights in a federal hate crimes trial over the death of the jogger who’s now buried near Waynesboro.

Rep. Sandra Scott from Clayton County introduced the legislation in the Georgia House. The date was chosen because it is the same day Arbery was killed in 2020.

At first, his murder went largely unnoticed outside the south Georgia community where the 25-year-old lived and died just weeks before the country was gripped by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It wasn’t until a video of the shooting surfaced on May 5, 2020, that the Black man’s death drew nationwide attention, prompting outrage and protests -- harbingers of the demonstrations against racial injustice that would follow that summer after the May 25, 2020, murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

According to investigators, Arbery was on a jog -- something he was known to do, according to those who knew him -- when father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael grabbed their guns and pursued him. Gregory McMichael, a former police officer and investigator for the local District Attorney’s Office, would later tell police that Arbery and his son had struggled over his son’s shotgun, and that Travis McMichael shot Arbery after the latter attacked him.

When asked why they pursued the 25-year-old, the men claimed to be conducting a citizen’s arrest. They said they had pursued Arbery because they suspected he was responsible for a string of recent purported burglaries in the neighborhood.

A Glynn County police spokesperson later set the record straight stating there had only been one burglary -- a gun stolen from an unlocked vehicle in front of the McMichaels’ home -- reported in more than seven weeks prior to the shooting.

A third man, William “Roddie” Bryan, also joined the pursuit and recorded the shooting on his cellphone. But it would be more than 10 weeks until the 36-second video showing the shooting would surface, spurring calls for the McMichaels’ arrests.

Two days after the video surfaced, Gregory and Travis McMichael were arrested on charges of murder and aggravated assault.

The three men were found guilty of murdering Arbery in late 2021. The McMichaels were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Bryan was sentenced to life in prison with possibility of parole, meaning he could be eligible for parole after serving at least 30 years in prison.

In February 2022, a jury in a separate trial found all three men guilty of violating Arbery’s civil rights and targeting him because he was Black. The men will face additional sentencing for the hate crime conviction.

The Ahmaud Arbery Day resolution, adopted Feb. 2, by the Georgia House of Representatives, reads in part, “Feb. 23 will forever be known annually in the State of Georgia as the Ahmaud Arbery Day. Now, therefore, be it resolved by the House of Representatives that the members of this body join in memorializing Mr. Ahmaud Marquez Arbery.”

But, Ahmaud Arbery Day isn’t a day to remember the story of his killers. As the resolution describes, it’s a day to remember Ahmaud as he was known to his loved ones: a loving son, brother, uncle, grandson, nephew, cousin and friend that “left an impact on countless Georgians and Americans.”

The resolution encourages members of the community to run 2.23 miles every Feb. 23.

From reports by WGCL/CBS 46, CNN and WTOC