UPDATED: 5:00 p.m. ET, Jan. 7, 2022
A judge finally handed down life sentences for the three white men guilty of felony murder for killing Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia on Feb. 23, 2020.
Almost two years have passed since the tragic day Ahmaud Arbery lost his life, but the story is still as gripping as it was the first time you were introduced to it. An innocent man lost is life and because of it three men will spend the rest of their lives in prison, but how did we get here?
The tragic story begins with father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael and their friend William “Roddie” Bryan — who were all shown on video actively participating in Arbery’s killing in the middle of a street in broad daylight on Feb. 23, 2020. They were each facing life sentences for their roles in the racist and vigilante shooting that bore all the hallmarks of a modern-day lynching.
The very next month, the murderous trio is scheduled to stand trial for federal hate crime charges from the shooting, according to CNN.
As they did with the state trial, they have also pleaded not guilty to the federal charges.
The three men were accused of racially profiling Arbery, arming themselves, jumping in trucks, chasing him down, blocking his path in the streets and then shooting him to death.
Holding them accountable has been a long time coming for Arbery’s loved ones and attorneys representing his family, who have been seeking justice in a case that was seemingly covered up by his murderers and their apparent accomplices in law enforcement, all with a cruel, allegedly racist twist.
The imagery associated with the horrific narrative surrounding the shooting and accused murderers harkened back to harrowing tales of racist white mob justice in the Jim Crow South.
Ahead of the murder trial, Arbery’s mother chose to recognize the positive instead of allowing herself to be consumed by the obvious negative on the bad on the grim anniversary of her son’s death at the young age of 25.
“It still hurts that I lost Ahmaud,” Wanda Cooper-Jones told the Atlanta Journal Constitution in an interview published Feb. 23, the anniversary of her son’s death. “Knowing that Ahmaud was possibly involved in change tells me he didn’t lose his life in vain.”
The events leading up to and including Arbery’s killing in the town of Brunswick have been unfolding in a complicated and tangled timeline amplified by an explosive collision of the South’s good old boy network with a very focused and resolute movement for Black lives.
To say that the story has developed slowly would be an understatement. After all, the McMichaels were arrested and charged with murder more than two months after Arbery was killed. It would take another two weeks before Bryan, the man who filmed the shooting, would meet the same fate and be taken into custody and also be charged with felony murder along with criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. That last charge likely stemmed from his role in using the vehicle he was in to trap Arbery between his and the McMichaels’ trucks as seen on the video recorded by Bryan that was shown to the world when it leaked — inexplicably by Gregory McMichaels — and posted to social media in May.
The shooting resulted in a series of Georgia’s district attorneys playing an unfortunate game of hot potato with the case, which has been marred from the start with a web of conflicts of interest from prosecutors whose associations with each other and the accused murderers have contributed to a massive delay of justice.
One of the central themes emerging from the case is Georgia’s glaring lack of hate crime laws. The case merits a hate crime charge, lawyers representing Arbery’s family have maintained. Civil rights attorneys S. Lee Merritt and Ben Crump have been calling for the Department of Justice to get involved to determine whether federal hate crime charges are warranted against Gregory McMichael, who actually pulled the trigger and killed Arbery.
Another persistent theme in the case was the revelation of an incestuous and possibly corrupt relationship between multiple district attorneys’ offices across the state of Georgia, resulting in three prosecutors being forced to recuse themselves because of conflicts of interest.
There was also the apparent campaign to criminalize Arbery in death to contend with, as a flurry of reputation-damaging yet ultimately irrelevant references to his past encounters with law enforcement that could never justify the killing of an unarmed man fueled by racist suspicions. That was the case when a video of police harassing Arbery from 2017 was widely published. This was the same police department that decided against making any arrests in Arbery’s killing until federal intervention pressured them to do so more than two months later.
Keep reading to find a complete and detailed timeline of the events that led up to Arbery’s shooting and those that have transpired since as his family works to achieve some semblance of justice in their loved one’s killing committed in unabashed cold blood.
1. October 2019
The owner of the property that Gregory and Travis McMichael purportedly ultimately suspected Ahmaud Arbery of burglarizing was alerted by a motion-activated camera that people were going onto the construction site. Larry English called and texted the police to investigate but nothing had been taken and no one was found there when they responded.
2. November 2019
English’s surveillance camera captures multiple people walking up to and onto the property out of apparent curiosity. A white couple is seen on the footage but not anyone resembling Arbery.
3. Dec. 20, 2019
The Glynn County Police Department sends a text message to Larry English advising him to contact his property’s neighbor, Gregory McMichael, if his surveillance camera showed any suspicious activity at the site. Lawyers representing Arbery’s family say this is evidence that Glynn County Police Officer Robert Rash empowered the McMichaels to act as vigilantes.
who is identified as “retired Law Enforcement
5. Feb. 11, 2020
Surveillance footage shows Arbery inside the home under construction. Travis McMichael called 911 to report it. Property owner Larry English said he also got an alert from his motion-detecting camera that same night. This is purportedly the incident that gave the McMichaels their first point of reference to racially profile Arbery on the day they confronted and killed him.
6. Feb. 23
Ahmaud Arbery is killed in the middle of a road in broad daylight after the McMichaels purportedly suspect him as a burglar, arm themselves, hop in their truck and chase him, trap him, ambush him and shoot him to death.
Pictured: A young girl looks at a memorial for Ahmaud Arbery near where he was shot and killed in Brunswick, Georgia.
7. Feb. 27, 2020
Brunswick district attorney, Jackie L. Johnson, recuses herself from the case because she said that Gregory McMichael was an investigator in her office until he retired last year.
8. Feb. 27, 2020
A copy of Johnson’s letter recusing herself.
9. Feb. 29, 2020
Ahmaud Arbery is buried at his funeral.
Pictured: Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, weeps while people gather to honor her son in Brunswick, Georgia, on May 9, 2020.
10. March 2020
The case is referred to Waycross District Attorney George E. Barnhill, who declines to bring charges against the McMichaels, tells police he believes the shooting was justifiable and describes Arbery as a criminal.
11. April 2, 2020
The Brunswick News publishes its report on the McMichaels shooting Arbery after public records request was granted for access to the Glynn County Police Department’s data.
12. April 3, 2020
George Barnhill writes a letter to Glynn County Police Department saying he will recuse himself from the case because his son used to work with Gregory McMichael. Barnhill also goes out of his way to repeat his opinion that the McMichaels should not be arrested in the case.
Barnhill’s letter also makes a reference to William “Roddy” Bryan, the man who filmed the shooting and was alleged to be a part of what Barnhill called the “hot pursuit of a burglary suspect.”
13. April 13
The case gets transferred to District Attorney Tom Durden of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit, the third prosecutor to be given the case in less than two months since Arbery’s shooting. Durden refers the case to a grand jury even though grand juries had been temporarily suspended because of social distance guidelines associated with the coronavirus. Durden had also seen the
14. April 26, 2020
The New York Times publishes its first report on the shooting, bringing national attention to the case.
15. April 28, 2020
Activists, community leaders and Georgia’s NAACP chapter call for Durden to arrest the McMichaels for Arbery’s murder.
16. May 5, 2020
A graphic video of the McMichaels ambushing and shooting Arbery in the middle of a road in broad daylight is posted to social media. It is later revealed that Gregory McMichael leaked the footage of himself and his son under the inexplicable premise that it could somehow exonerate him.
17. May 5, 2020
Durden asks for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate Arbery’s killing as well as who leaked the video.
18. May 7, 2020
Gregory and Travis McMichael are arrested and charged with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.
19. May 8, 2020
Protesters demonstrate in Brunswick, Georgia, for justice on what would have been Ahmaud Arbery’s 26th birthday.
20. May 8, 2020
In honor of Ahmaud Arbery’s birthday, people and organizations across social media organized to run 2.23 miles and use the hashtag #IRunWithMaud. The mileage number coincides with the date Arbery was killed on Feb. 23, 2020.
21. May 9, 2020
Armed members of the Black Panther Party patrol the white neighborhood where Ahmaud Arbery was killed as part of a larger demonstration demanding justice in the killing.
22. May 10, 2020
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr asks the Justice Department to investigate the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery.
23. May 11, 2020
Carr appoints Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes, a Black woman and the first African American to serve in that role, to prosecute the case. Carr also asks the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate district attorneys Barnhill and Johnson for possible prosecutorial misconduct.
24. May 12, 2020
The full graphic video of Arbery being hunted by the McMichaels and killed is made public.
On the same day, Arbery’s autopsy results are made public and found that he was shot twice in the chest and once on his wrist. It also determined there were no drugs or alcohol in Arbery’s system at the time of his death. The autopsy declared that Arbery’s manner of death was a homicide.
25. May 13, 2020
An anonymous note was found at a makeshift memorial at the site where Arbery was killed. It read, “Ahmaud, I am so sorry. I should have stopped them. I am so sorry.” The note prompted lawyers representing Arbery’s family to demand to know who left it.
It is later determined that the person who left the note at the roadside memorial just wanted to share condolences.
26. May 14, 2020
Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son, Travis McMichael, 34, are formally charged with murder and aggravated assault.
27. May 18, 2020
It is reported that Lindsey McMichael, the sister of Ahmaud Arbery murder suspect Travis McMichael, posted a graphic photo of Arbery’s dead body lying on the ground to one of her social media accounts. She downplays her actions by explaining she is a “true crime fan.”
28. May 18, 2020
The lawyer for William “Roddie” Bryan, the man who recorded the footage of Arbery’s killing, announces his client took a lie detector test after calls grew for him to be arrested. It was unclear how the lie detector test would have exonerated Bryan.
29. May 20, 2020
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation executes a search warrant at the McMichaels’ home.
Pictured: Protesters demonstrate in the Satilla Shores neighborhood where Gregory and Travis McMichael live and where Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed in Brunswick, Georgia.
30. May 20, 2020
All 14 of Georgia’s Congressional representatives signed a letter sent to U.S. Attorney General William Barr to encourage the use of “all possible Federal resources to achieve full justice, transparency, and accountability in the case of Mr. Ahmaud Arbery.”
31. May 21, 2020
William “Roddy” Bryan, the man who filmed the McMichaels’ ambush and killing of Ahmaud Arbery, is arrested on charges of felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced.
32. May 25, 2020
Attorneys for Ahmaud Arbery’s family announced that his parents met with the Department of Justice, which CNN reported would be investigated as a hate crime.
33. June 2020
Lee Merritt tweeted a photo of him with Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, to address a report that civil rights leaders took umbrage at a late-night call requesting they be present when Donald Trump signed an executive order on criminal justice.
April Ryan tweeted early that morning of June 16, 2020, that civil rights leaders were “OUTRAGED” Arbery’s family members and their lawyer were “expected” to be at the White House alongside Trump. Ryan, the then-White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, described the event as a “photo op.”
34. June 17, 2020
William “Roddy” Bryan, who filmed Arbery’s shooting, was denied bail as he and the other two suspected white supremacists involved in the vigilante shooting all pleaded not guilty to murder on July 17, 2020.
Bryan also requested to remove the prosecutor, Holmes, from the case as well as a gag order for Arbery’s mother. It was all denied.
That same day, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation tweeted that Bryan was also the subject of a child molestation investigation. The GBI described the investigation as “active and ongoing.”
35. November 2020
Travis McMichael was described in court as a raging racist by the defense’s witnesses as well as the prosecution when the accused murderer’s “best friend” admitted under oath that the two of them “exchanged text messages littered with racist tropes and ugly stereotypes about African-Americans and Asians,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The revelation was the latest evidence that McMichael likely had racist motivations in going after Arbery.
Co-defendant Bryan also told investigators that McMichael called Arbery a “fucking nigger” after shooting the jogger three times at close range with a shotgun.
36. December 2020
Newly released body camera footage from a police officer who responded to the scene where Ahmaud Arbery was killed revealed that one of the accused murderers shamelessly tried to blame the Black jogger for provoking his own shooting.
On the video, Travis McMichael is seen “splattered with blood” while speaking to the unidentified Glynn County police officer on Feb. 23, 2020, in Brunswick.
The video also showed McMichael’s father suggesting to the officer that he regretted not being the one to shoot Arbery over unsubstantiated claims of burglary inspired by their racial profiling of the jogger.
“(Travis) had no choice, man” Gregory McMichael told the cop before adding later: “To be honest with you if I could’ve shot the guy I would’ve shot him myself.” He said without proof that Arbery made “frequent trips to the neighborhood … breaking into places.”
The bodycam footage shows Bryan apparently pretending he had second thoughts surrounding the matter.
”Should we have been chasing him?” he asked. “I don’t know.”
37. January 2021
William “Roddie” Bryan — who filmed his buddies chase down Arbery in a truck, trap him and shoot him in broad daylight in the middle of a road because they racially and falsely profiled the jogger as a burglar — had his request for bail denied once again after a judge heard his latest reason why he wanted to be released: high blood pressure.
38. February 2021
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announced reform surrounding a Civil War-era citizens arrest law that was initially cited as a reason to not pursue charges against the killers of Ahmaud Arbery.
With some exceptions, the proposed bill would prevent private citizens from conducting arrests on others. The new bill, proposed by Kemp, states that a detained person must be released if authorities do not arrive within an hour.
“Ahmaud was a victim of vigilante-style of violence that has no place in Georgia,” Kemp said. “And some tried to justify the actions of his killers by claiming they had the protection of an antiquated law that is ripe for abuse.”
39. Feb. 23, 2021
Wanda Cooper-Jones, mother of Ahmaud Arbery, spoke to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ahead of the one-year mark of her son’s killing.
“Ahmaud was killed in a very senseless manner,” Cooper-Jones told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “They didn’t care about it. They tried to cover it up. They didn’t value, they didn’t respect Ahmaud’s life. If these guys go to jail for the rest of their lives, it won’t bring Ahmaud back.”
She continued: “He’s never going to come back. Not next week, not next month, not next year. I’m just finally getting that reality check.”
40. April 2021
It was announced that the three men accused of murdering Arbery would face federal hate crime charges for the killing. The trio was indicted by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Georgia and charged with hate crimes and the attempted kidnapping of Arbery.
“Travis McMichael, 35; Travis’s father, Gregory McMichael, 65; and William “Roddie” Bryan, 51, were each charged with one count of interference with rights and with one count of attempted kidnapping,” the DOJ statement reads. “Travis and Gregory McMichael were also charged with one count each of using, carrying, and brandishing—and in Travis’s case, discharging—a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.”
41. May 2021
It was reported that Gregory McMichael downplayed the broad day killing as a virtue and not an immoral act during a phone call from jail to his brother.
“You’ve heard the saying that no good deed goes unpunished?” Gregory McMichael reportedly asked.
“Yeah, that’s the shining example right there,” Gregory McMichael’s brother affirms.
There are reportedly “thousands of hours of jailhouse phone calls” his lawyer is trying to exclude from the case.
Earlier that same month, Travis McMichael’s lawyer said he wanted to enter Arbery’s criminal record and testimony about his alleged mental illness admitted as evidence in an effort to apparently justify the killing.
43. October 2021
Days ahead of the start of jury selection for the murder trial against the McMichaels and Bryan, their defense lawyer argued the jury should know that Arbery was on probation on the day of his killing. The defense argued that allowing Arbery’s probation into evidence might explain why he ran from the three men who were armed with visible guns and chasing the jogger in separate motor vehicles. The attorneys also argued that, somehow, knowledge of Arbery’s probation will counter the narrative that their clients “only chased after [Arbery] because they were violent racists who did not want a Black man jogging in their mostly white neighborhood,” according to the motion the lawyers filed.
44. November 11, 2021
Glynn County police Sgt. Roderic Nohilly testified that when speaking with the elder McMichael at police headquarters after the shooting, Greg told him Arbery “wasn’t out for no Sunday jog. He was getting the hell out of there.”
Nohilly also read transcripts of their conversation in court that made Greg almost appear to be bragging about his redneck Avengers squad chasing Arbery around and preventing him from leaving.
“He was trapped like a rat,” Greg said, according to the transcript. “I think he was wanting to flee and he realized that something, you know, he was not going to get away.”
“He had an opportunity to flee further, you know?” Greg continued. “We had chased him around the neighborhood a bit, but he wasn’t winded at all. I mean this guy was, he was in good shape.”
45. November 11, 2021
Kevin Gough, the attorney representing William Bryan objected to black pastors being present in the courtroom after Al Shapton sat with the family during court proceedings.
“If we’re going to set a precedent from yesterday where we’re going to bring leading members of the African American community into the courtroom to sit with the family during the trial in front of the jury, I believe that’s intimidating, it’s an attempt to pressure…or influence the jury,” Gough said.
“The idea that we’re going to be serially bringing these people in series to sit down with the victim’s family one after another…obviously, there’s only a limited number of pastors they can have. If their pastor is Al Sharpton right now that’s fine, but that’s it. We don’t want any more black pastors here…Jesse Jackson, or whoever was in here earlier this week.”
Rev. Jesse Jackson showed up in court the next day and sat with the Arbery family, despite Gough’s plea to the judge.
46. November 24, 2021
The three white men involved in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia in a murder case that shocked the world have been found guilty on almost all counts.
All three were indicted by a grand jury on malice and felony murder charges as well as aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
47. January 7, 2022
A judge on handed down life in prison sentences to each of Ahmuad Arbery‘s three convicted murderers for the brutal and brazen killing of the unarmed Black jogger in a case that centered on race and captivated the world’s attention.
Travis McMichael, 35, who pulled the trigger on the shotgun that killed Arbery in 2020, was sentenced to life plus 20 years in prison without the possibility of parole. His father, Gregory, 66, received the same sentence.
Their accomplice, friend and neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, was sentenced to life plus 20 years, after which he will be eligible for parole if the 52-year-old is alive at that time. Bryan’s conviction carries a mandatory minimum of 30 years served in prison before he would be eligible for parole.