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Ahmaud Arbery: Father of shooter investigated victim when he was a high school student

Gregory McMichael, the father of the Georgia man who shot jogger Ahmaud Arbery to death more than two months ago, aided the Glynn County district attorney’s prosecution against the victim when he was in high school, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

McMichael, 64, and his son Travis, 34, have been charged with murder and aggravated assault in the February 23 incident in Brunswick’s Satilla Shores neighborhood, as CrimeOnline previously reported.

The AJC reported that Arbery was sentenced to five years probation after he was charged with carrying a weapon to the school campus along with several counts of obstructing a law enforcement officer. He was convicted of violating parole in 2018 when he was charged with shoplifting, according to court documents.

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The elder McMichael’s participation in the investigation was revealed in a letter written by Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill to Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr.

In the letter, Barnhill wrote that he was recusing himself from the case because his own son was a prosecutor in the Brunswick DA’s office and that he and Gregory McMichael, at the time an investigator in Brunwick DA Jackie Johnson’s office, “both helped with the previous prosecution of Arbery,” the AJC said.

In a letter written a few days before, Barnhill wrote to Glynn County Police Department Captain Tom Jump blamed Arbery’s mother for making “unfounded allegations of bias” around the connections between his office, his son, and McMichael. He said that because of those allegations he would ask Carr to name another DA to decide whether to present the case to a grand jury.

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, did request Barnhill’s recusal but told the AJC that they didn’t know Barnhill’s son or McMichael had worked on her son’s case.

“I just looked him up on Facebook and saw this son worked for the Brunswick DA,” she said.

In the letter to Jump, Barnhill wrote that he saw “insufficient probable cause” to arrest the McMichaels or William Bryan, a third man who reportedly helped the father and son corner Arbery. Barnhill cited Arbery’s previous conviction and a cousin and brother’s run-ins with law enforcement in the reasoning for finding “no grounds” for charges.

Johnson officially recused herself on February 27 because McMichaels, who retired in April 2019, had worked in her office. After Barnwell’s recusal, Carr appointed District Attorney for the Atlantic Judicial Circuit Tom Durden to head up the case.

Two weeks after Durden’s appointment, the Glynn County Police Department asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into threats against the department and people involved in the investigation. On May 5, a 36 second video of the incident is leaked, and the story explodes out of coastal Georgia. That same day police ask the GBI to look into the release of the video, and Durden recommends that the case be presented to a grand jury. Later that night, however, with increasing attention to the case from across the country, Durden speaks with GBI director Vic Reynolds and formally asks state law enforcement to investigate.

The GBI launched its investigation on May 6, and on May 7, agents arrested Gregory and Travis McMichael. On Friday, Reynolds told reporters during a news briefing that he was “very comfortable telling you there’s more than sufficient probable cause in this case for felony murder.” He also said agents were looking into the possibility of arresting the person who filmed the video as well.

Read our continuing coverage of the Ahmaud Arbery case here.

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[Featured image: Ahmaud Arbery/Family handout; Gregory and Travis McMichael/Glynn County Police Department]