A caravan of advocates traveled in droves to the Glynn County, Georgia, courthouse on Saturday and demanded the resignation of the two local prosecutors who recused themselves from investigating the death of Ahmaud Arbery, according to a statement from the JUSTGeorgia Coalition.
Arbery was shot and killed while jogging on Feb. 23 around 1 p.m., allegedly by Travis McMichael using a shotgun as his father, Gregory McMichael was nearby and armed with a .357 magnum. The father and son duo were not arrested or charged until two days after a cellphone video of the shooting was leaked onto social media on May 5.
The two-month delay of the McMichaels’ arrest has local advocates and attorneys for the Arbery family questioning the investigation from the beginning.
“An arrest of the killers is not enough and we refuse to believe that the system that allowed this family to suffer without an arrest should remain intact. They system must be held accountable,” said Derrick Boazman, a former Atlanta City Councilman.
Boazman is part of a group of organizations which traveled over 300 miles from Atlanta to the Glynn County Courthouse for the rally on Saturday. The protesters were urged to wear gloves and masks as well as to practice social distancing.
Organizers said the “We are NOT Satisfied” rally was to demand the resignation of District Attorneys Jackie Johnson and George Barnhill for what they say is the mishandling of the prosecution.
Glynn County Police Department said Johnson instructed them not to arrest the McMichaels — a claim she has called “baseless and false,” in a May 8 press release.
Johnson, who oversees the Brunswick District Attorney’s Office, recused herself from the investigation on Feb. 27 and requested state Attorney General Christopher Carr to appoint another prosecutor’s office to take over the case. Johnson cited a conflict of interest since Gregory McMichael retired as an investigator with the office less than a year ago. Gregory McMichael, 64, is also a former Glynn County police officer.
Barnhill, who oversees the Waycross County District Attorney’s Office, recused himself from the case weeks later after Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper-Jones learned Barnhill’s son also worked in the Brunswick District Attorney’s Office at the same time as Gregory McMichaels.
District Attorney for the Atlantic Judicial Circuit Tom Durden was assigned the investigation on April 13 and on the evening of May 5 — the same day the 28-second video of Arbery’s death was posted — requested the Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI) investigate Arbery’s case.
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr Carr requested on May 11 that the GBI investigate Johnson and Barnhill for possible prosecutorial misconduct.
“We are confident that any investigation will ultimately show that our office acted appropriately under the circumstances,” said Johnson in a May 12 statement. “In the interest of protecting the integrity of any future legal proceedings, our office has no further comment at this time.”
An intermediary said Barnhill is not giving interviews because he doesn’t want to violate any state code of professional conduct rules, according to local affiliate WSB-TV. Barnhill has not responded to multiple requests for comment from ABC News.
Authorities with the GBI arrested and charged the McMichaels within 36 hours of their investigation of the Satilla Shores crime scene.
Police said Gregory McMichael alerted his son that he spotted the suspect of “several break-ins” of Larry English’s unfinished home running in the neighborhood. There were no records of house burglaries, according to the police reports.
According to text messages obtained by ABC News from December 20 between English and one of the responding officers Robert Rash, he told the homeowner that Gregory McMichael, a former law enforcement officer lived nearby. English lives 90 miles away as the home is under construction.
“Greg is retired Law Enforcement and also a Retired Investigation from the DA’s office. He said please call him day or night when you get action on your camera,” Rash allegedly wrote to English and included Gregory McMichaels address and cellphone number.
English said an unknown black male was seen on surveillance video which he viewed on his cellphone in October, November and days before Arbery’s death, but was not seen stealing anything, police reports show.
Attorneys for Arbery’s parents said they reviewed “a number” of videos from the construction site where other people frequented the property during the day and night.
“We are able to confirm that Ahmaud Arbery appeared in one video, however we are unable to confirm that he appeared in any other videos,” the attorneys said, adding, “Ahmaud Arbery seems to be the only one who was presumed to be a criminal and ultimately the only one murdered based on that assumption.”
The McMichaels have been held without bail since their arrest. Since the courts were closed because of the coronavirus, a grand jury will not convene until they reopen on June 12.
Franklin Hogue and Laura Hogue, attorneys for Gregory McMichael, said at a press conference on Friday that there is more to the story and there are more videos of the incident.
“This case at first appears to contain some of the same elements that feed into the despicable and violent history of racism in our country. Just based upon what little the public knows about this case up until now, but this case is not that story,” said Frank Hogue. “And when we bring it out in the proper venue, a court of law, at the proper time, the truth will reveal that this is not just another act of violent racism.”
Travis McMichael’s attorneys Robert G. Rubin and Jason B. Sheffield said in a statement on Thursday that their client has been “vilified.”
“Travis has been vilified before his voice could even be heard. In a case such as this that is already highly publicized, it is imperative that no one rush to judgment, and to allow the legal process to run its course,” Rubin said.
Merritt said in an interview with “GMA” on Thursday evening that Rubin’s statement “comes off as disingenuous and almost offensive to the family.”
“I’m representing a 25-year-old victim who was shot to death by people who rushed to judgment and stereotype him … they jumped to a conclusion, and they murdered Ahmaud Arbery,” said Merritt.