Ahmaud Arbery’s mother filed a federal civil action on Tuesday alleging that police in Glynn County, Georgia, and two local prosecutors conspired to cover up Arbery’s murder and protect the men involved in his death.
The lawsuit seeks $ 1 million in damages, claims the police department and officials from the Brunswick County District Attorney’s Office worked together to portray Arbery as a violent criminal and absolve Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and their neighbor William Bryan of wrongdoing.
“There was a vast conspiracy between law enforcement officials and agencies not only to cover up evidence to arrest Ahmaud’s murderers, but also to cover up evidence that would directly implicate law enforcement in the murder. “, reads a statement from Lee Merritt, Arbery’s lawyer. mother, Wanda Cooper.
Arbery, 25, was jogging in Brunswick, Ga. On February 23, 2020, when authorities said he stopped to visit a house under construction. The McMichaels, who were armed, followed him and Travis Michael is accused of shooting him. The McMichaels told police they believed Arbery was a burglar and that Travis McMichael shot him after Arbery “violently attacked”. Bryan allegedly joined the McMichaels to help trap Arbery, according to the Glynn County police report. Bryan recorded the murder.
“The cover-up of Ahmaud’s murder began the moment uniformed personnel from the Glynn Police Department arrived at the scene of the crime,” the trial said.
The men were not arrested when the police arrived. This, the lawsuit alleges, was part of the privileges accorded to the McMichaels through Gregory’s deep ties to Glynn County Police and the Brunswick Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
The Brunswick News reported that Gregory was a police officer there for seven years and an investigator in the district attorney’s office for decades. In previous months, Glynn County policeman Robert Rash, also named in the lawsuit, had given Gregory permission to act as a law enforcement officer keeping a nearby house under construction, according to the complaint. The complaint alleges that the father-son duo believed they were acting “on behalf and under the guise of the Glynn County Police”.
According to the civil suit, they were. Jackie Johnson, who was a district attorney at the time, quickly became involved in helping Gregory, his former colleague and longtime friend, according to the lawsuit. Johnson, who is also named in the suit, reportedly told police in the days following the shooting that there was “no need to arrest the McMichaels,” according to the reports and the civil suit. Instead, she brought in another defendant, Waycross Judicial District Attorney George Barnhill, to take over the case – and the alleged cover-up – once she recused herself, according to the civil lawsuit. .
“Defendant Barnhill further ratified the unlawful and unconstitutional conduct of defendants Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and Bryan by providing false information … stating that he had ‘a video of Arbery breaking into a house immediately prior to the prosecution and the confrontation, ”says the trial.
The alleged video was never produced. However, a video obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from the day of Arbery’s death showed a person matching Arbery’s description walking towards a house under construction and entering briefly before continuing on his way. Arbery family lawyers said in a press release then that the person remained on the property for less than three minutes, adding that “Ahmaud took nothing from the site. It did not cause any damage to the property ”.
It would be months before the disturbing video of Arbery’s death was made public and fueled a summer of protests against racist violence.
“Without the video of Ahmaud’s murder, the Glynn County Police Department, Rash, Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, Bryan, Johnson and Barnhill would have succeeded in conspiring to deprive Ahmaud of his constitutional rights,” the lawsuit said.
The McMichaels and Bryans were subsequently arrested, and in June a grand jury indicted the three on suspicion of malicious murder, murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. All three pleaded not guilty and were denied bail.
Several police officers, as well as Glynn County, are named in the lawsuit. NBC News has contacted the defendants named in the case for comment.
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