Federal prosecutors charge 3 men with hate crimes in Ahmaud Arbery death

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Three white men were indicted on federal hate crime charges in connection with the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, while he was jogging through a Brunswick, Ga., neighborhood last year.

The Justice Department announced the charges Wednesday, adding that Gregory and Travis McMichael, a father and son, along with another man, William “Roddie” Bryan, willfully interfered with Arbery “because of Arbery’s race and color.”

“In addition to the hate-crime charges … all three defendants attempted to unlawfully seize and confine Arbery by chasing after him in their trucks in an attempt to restrain him, restrict his free movement, corral and detain him against his will, and prevent his escape,” according to a press release from the Department of Justice.

The three men were each charged with a single count of interfering with rights and one count of attempted kidnapping. The McMichaels face an additional count each for carrying and brandishing firearms during their encounter with Arbery.

The younger McMichael is charged with firing his weapon.

The charges stem from a Feb. 23, 2020, encounter where the father and son, suspecting Arbery was behind a string of thefts in the neighborhood, grabbed guns and pursued him.

Bryan later joined the pursuit, according to investigators.

Once Arbery was cornered, Travis McMichael exited his truck and engaged with Arbery. After a brief tussle, the younger McMichael shot and killed Arbery.

All three men face murder and aggravated assault charges in state court.

The new charges come as the federal officials have been moving swiftly to open up investigations into police departments that were at the center of some of last year’s most high-profile police encounters resulting in the killing of unarmed Black Americans.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced investigations into the Louisville and Minneapolis police departments to determine if there’s a “pattern or practice” violation of the civil rights of their residents.

Breonna Taylor, who was killed during a botched raid by Louisville police, and George Floyd, who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer last year, became rallying cries — along with Arbery — during national protests calling for racial justice and an end to police brutality.

At the time of the Arbery killing, Georgia was one of a handful of states that did not have hate crime laws on the books and also did not require officials to track or collect data on hate crimes.

In June, the Georgia legislature overwhelmingly approved hate crime measures, which Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law.

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