On Tuesday, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced the investigation into whether prosecutorial misconduct occurred during the initial handling of the case of Ahmaud Arbery, a jogger shot dead in broad daylight in February.
According to a GBI press release, Attorney General Chris Carr requested that the agency investigate the offices of District Attorneys Jackie Johnson of Brunswick and George Barnhill of Waycross.
“The Attorney General is concerned that the actions of these offices in possibly misrepresenting or failing to disclose information during the process of appointing a conflict prosecutor to investigate the death of Ahmaud Arbery may have constituted unprofessional conduct under O.C.G.A. § 45-11-4 or other crimes,” the GBI said.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Arbery was jogging in a neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia, when retired district attorney investigator Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis, blocked him with their truck.
The truck stopped in the middle of the road at Satilla Drive and Holmes Drive, according to the Glynn County Police Department, while the men waited for Arbery. Travis McMichael got out of the truck with a shotgun, then got into a scuffle with Arbery as the man tried to run around the vehicle.
Gregory McMichael, who was standing in the bed of the truck with a .357 Magnum, later told police they brought their guns because they didn’t know at the time whether Arbery was armed. Reports indicated that Arbery was unarmed.
Within minutes, Arbery was shot and killed.
At least two Georgia commissioners came forward in May and alleged that District Attorney Jackie Johnson’s office wouldn’t let the Glynn County Police Department arrest the suspects.
“The police at the scene went to her, saying they were ready to arrest both of them. These were the police at the scene who had done the investigation,” Commissioner Allen Booker told AJC. “She shut them down to protect her friend McMichael.”
No arrests were made until Thursday, May 9, after the GBI launched its own investigation into the case. Both Greg and Travis McMichael have been arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault.
Commissioner Peter Murphy also indicated that the DA Johnson refused to let police arrest the pair. Both Murphy and Booker said they spoke directly with the Glynn County Police Department.
“They were told not to make the arrest,” Murphy said.
Within days after Arbery’s death, Johnson recused herself from the case. Carr appointed Barnhill as the lead prosecutor on the case at the request of Johnson.
After Barnhill was appointed prosecutor, it was determined that Barnhill’s son, who is an assistant DA at Johnson’s office, had previously worked with Gregory McMichael on a previous case. Yet, Barnhill “held onto the case for several more weeks after making this discovery,” according to Carr, and did not alert the AG office about the conflict of interest until April 7.
Further, Barnhill allegedly did not disclose to the AG that on February 24, he had already provided an opinion regarding Arbery’s death and stated there was insufficient probable cause to make an arrest, citing self-defense as the reason for the shooting.
Carr is also asking that the U.S. Department of Justice do an investigation into the handling of Arbery’s death. Johnson reportedly indicated that a federal investigation “will bring full transparency to the entire investigation and we welcome it.”
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[Feature Photo: Ahmaud Arbery/Handout; Greg and Travis McMichael/Facebook]