Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and their neighbor William Bryan, who were indicted last year for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, have also been indicted by the U.S. Justice Department on federal hate crime charges.
Arbery was jogging in South Georgia on February 23, 2020 when video footage, allegedly taken by Bryan, shows the father and son blocking his path with their pickup before Travis McMichael struggles with Arbery, who attempts to run around him, fatally shoots him. The men were not charged with Arbery’s death until May 2020, after the video was leaked to a local radio station. In an interview with Chris Cuomo, Bryan’s lawyer implied that his client’s lack of a college degree meant he was not smart enough to know that filming a murder, failing to call 911 while witnessing a struggle, or failing immediately hand that video over to police, was a crime.
The men already face life in prison without parole on the original indictment and it remains to be seen what additional punishment these new charges might incur. And while Ahmaud Arbery should not have been murdered while jogging at all, the fact that the U.S. Justice Department seems to be treating this case as exactly what it appears to be—a lynching—is a small progress from February 2020, when authorities didn’t seem to be treating the murder as a crime at all.