Three Georgia men were indicted on federal hate crime and attempted kidnapping charges in connection with the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot to death while jogging through a South Georgia neighborhood last year, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday.
The deadly encounter helped fuel nationwide racial justice protests last year, and the charges are the most significant hate crimes prosecution so far by the Biden administration, which has made civil rights protections a major priority.
The suspects — Travis McMichael, 35; his father, Gregory McMichael, 65; and William “Roddie” Bryan, 51 — were each charged with one count of interference with Mr. Arbery’s right to use a public street because of his race and with one count of attempted kidnapping.
Travis and Gregory McMichael were also charged with one count each of using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm. Travis McMichael is accused of shooting Mr. Arbery.
“As Arbery was running on a public street in the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, Georgia, Travis and Gregory McMichael armed themselves with firearms, got into a truck, and chased Arbery through the public streets of the neighborhood while yelling at him, using their truck to cut off his route, and threatening him with firearms,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
Mr. Bryan joined the chase and used his truck to cut off Mr. Arbery, the Justice Department said. The three men were accused of chasing after Mr. Arbery in their trucks in an attempt to restrain and detain him against his will.
The case also prompted an outcry after news reports and video footage indicated that a local prosecutor had wrongly determined that the pursuers had acted within bounds of Georgia’s citizen’s arrest statute, and that Mr. McMichael shot Mr. Arbery in self-defense.
Months after the February shooting, video surfaced that seemed to undercut the idea that Mr. McMichael acted in self-defense. The video showed Mr. Arbery jogging, then coming upon a man standing beside a truck and another man in the pickup bed. After Mr. Arbery runs around the truck, shouting is heard and then he reappears, tussling with the man outside of the truck. Three shotgun blasts are then fired.
The prosecutor, George E. Barnhill, the district attorney for Georgia’s Waycross Judicial Circuit, later recused himself from the case, and the state took over the investigation.
The three men also face state charges with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony. No date has been set for a trial.