Cops Tried to Tase Ahmaud Arbery in 2017 Over Nothing More Than Being a Black Man Hanging Out in a Park

Illustration for article titled Cops Tried to Tase Ahmaud Arbery in 2017 Over Nothing More Than Being a Black Man Hanging Out in a Park
Image: Associated Press

Amidst extremely valid questions (which we already know the answers to) about why local law enforcement didn’t initially arrest Gregory and Travis McMichael for shooting and killing Ahmaud Arbery, we now have learned new and incredibly disturbing details about a 2017 incident in which local police officers attempted to tase Arbery for simply being a black man hanging out in his car at a park. Unsurprisingly, they then used classic racist excuses to justify their decision to whip out their Tasers.

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The 2017 incident involving Glynn County police officers Michael Kanago and David Haney was first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but the Guardian has new details and a more comprehensive account of what happened, and it’s exactly what anyone who has even the slightest knowledge of how policing works in America would expect. In related news, Kanago and Haney, as well as other officers, were sued by a local resident in early 2019, who charged that the officers wrongfully arrested her after they broke into the home where she was sleeping. As the New York Times has reported, the Glynn County Police Department has only 122 officers but has been sued by residents at least 17 times during the past decade.

According to Kanago’s bodycam footage, which the Guardian obtained and posted in full, Kanago ran Arbery’s license and found that his license was suspended. Arbery, who is clearly—and justifiably—upset in the video footage, asked Kanago, “Can I have my ID please? Nobody’s not even driving the car. What the fuck did you come over here for? What the fuck did you come here to fuck with me for, I’m just chilling in the park.”

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“Why am I fucking with you? You wanna know why I’m fucking with you? Keep your hand in your pocket,” Kanago responded.

“I ain’t got shit on me, what the fuck you fucking with me for?” Arbery asks again.

Kanago then tells Arbery that “this area is known for drug activity,” and then requests another officer to come, before telling Arbery to put his hands on his car and then searching his body for weapons. “You’re bothering me for nothing, I work at Blue Beacon,” Arbery said to Kanago, who told Arbery he was “here to look for criminal activity.” “Criminal activity? I’m in a fucking park. I work,” Arbery responded, telling him soon after that he’s just rapping in the park.

Almost immediately after David Haney, the second officer, arrived, Haney whipped out his Taser and pointed it at Arbery. The bodycam footage clearly shows Haney attempting to tase Arbery at least two times, but according to Kanago’s subsequent police report, the Taser malfunctioned.

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Despite Arbery doing nothing more than hanging out at the park, the officers ordered him to get on the ground. “I got one day off a week, one day, one day off a week. I’m trying to chill on my day off, bro. I’m up early in the morning trying to chill,” Arbery told Kanago and Haney as he sat on the ground. Kanago responded by referencing “gang and drug activity,” and how Arbery’s behavior made him “nervous.” “Am I tied up in any of that?” Arbery responded. “I’m just so aggravated because I work hard, six days a week,” Arbery said. Kanago and Haney allow Arbery to leave shortly after, but not in his car.

The bodycam footage continues with Kanago and Haney casually talking about how they think Arbery’s car smells like weed, how “strange” it is for Arbery’s car to be parked there, and how “aggravated” they felt Arbery was, as if being upset by being stopped by cops for no valid reason and then almost being tased is not reason enough to be upset. Two more good ol’ boy cops stroll up, and they all go up to Arbery’s car and debate whether they see weed. “He’s definitely doing a lot more than chilling on a Tuesday morning,” Kanago said.

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Kanago, according to the Guardian, claimed in his subsequent police report that he felt threatened by Arbery, writing that “veins were popping from [Arbery’s] chest, which made me feel that he was becoming enraged and may turn physically violent towards me.” If this brings to mind Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson’s fucked-up claim that Michael Brown looked “like a demon” before he shot and killed Brown—and any of the countless times that police officers have justified violence with these kinds of racist excuses—you’d be correct.

As the Arbery family lawyers told the Guardian, “This appears to be just a glimpse into the kind of scrutiny Ahmaud Arbery faced not only by this police department but ultimately regular citizens like the McMichaels and their posse, pretending to be police officers.” Speaking of the McMichaels and their posse, activists and Arbery’s family are calling for William Bryan, the man who recorded the video of Gregory and Travis McMichael killing Arbery, to also be arrested. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is reportedly investigating Bryan’s role in Arbery’s killing.

Senior reporter, Jezebel

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