Georgia Investigators 'Confident' In Arrests Made In Ahmaud Arbery Case

May 22, 2020
Originally published on May 22, 2020 12:53 pm

Updated at 2:35 p.m. ET

The director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has downplayed claims made by the third man charged in the Ahmaud Arbery murder case that he was nothing more than a witness.

"I can tell you that if we believed he was a witness we wouldn't have arrested him," GBI Director Vic Reynolds said in a Friday news briefing.

The comments come a day after GBI brought felony charges against William "Roddie" Bryan, the man who recorded a video of the Feb. 23 shooting and killing of 25-year-old Arbery, a black man in Glynn County, Ga., by two white men.

Bryan, 50, who is also white, is now facing felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment charges. He was arrested Thursday evening and booked into the Glynn County Jail.

"At this point, we feel confident that individuals who needed to be charged have been charged," Reynolds said.

Reynolds added that he does not foresee any more arrests, but the investigation is ongoing.

Two other men, Gregory and Travis McMichael, a father and son who are also white, were charged with murder and aggravated assault on May 7.

GBI released two warrants for Bryan. The false imprisonment warrant accuses Bryan of "utilizing his vehicle on multiple occasions ... with the intention of confining and detaining Arbery." It adds that Bryan lacked the legal authority to do so.

Because of those actions, the second warrant states, "the accused did cause the death of another, Ahmaud Arbery, during the commission of a felony."

Reynolds said during the press conference he understood "people's concern or curiosity" about the fact that Bryan is charged with murder, even though he is not accused of shooting Arbery nearly three months ago.

"As the warrants indicated, he's charged with an underlying felony, " Reynolds said. "He's also charged with felony murder. So we believe the evidence would indicate that his underlying felony helped cause the death of Ahmaud Arbery."

At a Friday afternoon press conference at the Glynn County Courthouse, Bryan's attorney, Kevin Gough, told reporters there was "no precedent" for the charges brought against his client.

"These charges, if sustained, constitute a substantial expansion of criminal liability in Georgia that many, in the fullness of time, will likely find troubling," Gough said.

He added that Bryan turned himself in at the request of the GBI.

The Arbery family was "relieved" by Bryan's arrest Thursday, according to a statement from attorneys S. Lee Merritt, Benjamin Crump and L. Chris Stewart, who represent Arbery's parents.

"His involvement in the murder of Mr. Arbery was obvious to us, to many around the country and after their thorough investigation, it was clear to the GBI as well," the statement said.

Arbery's family has framed the death as a modern-day lynching. They say he was simply jogging through a Brunswick, Ga.-area neighborhood when he was confronted by the McMichaels and shot to death.

The case has drawn national attention, particularly after the release of the video.

Ten weeks passed between Arbery's death and the first arrests in the case. Those arrests happened two days after GBI took over the investigation from local authorities.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr has asked the GBI to investigate "possible prosecutorial misconduct" by Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson and George Barnhill of the Waycross Judicial Circuit.

Reynolds said Friday that the GBI investigation into that matter is almost complete.

Carr also asked the FBI to conduct a similar probe into the first two prosecutors' handling of the case.

Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec said last week that federal authorities are "assessing all of the evidence to determine whether federal hate crimes charges are appropriate."

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