The United States Department of Justice is investigating the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black man who was killed while jogging in a predominately White neighbourhood in the US state of Georgia, as a possible hate crime, US media reported on Monday, citing the lawyers representing the Arbery family.
CBS reported that the US attorney for the Southern District of Georgia and his office would investigate whether Glynn County and the state of Georgia violated the equal protection clause of the US Constitution.
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It took more than two months for authorities to arrest Gregory and Travis McMichael, and charge the White father and son duo with murder and aggravated assault in connection with Arbery’s death.
The arrests were made only after a video emerged of the shooting, stirring national outcry. William “Roddie” Bryan, who filmed the slaying, was later arrested and charged with felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
Gregory McMichael retired last year after more than two decades as an investigator for the local prosecutor’s office. Because of those ties, Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson recused herself from the case. Two outside prosecutors assigned the case have also stepped aside.
A white and orange cross with an ‘A’ on it stands stuck in the ground along Highway 17 at the entrance of the Satilla Shores neighbourhood where Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed young Black man, was killed [Dustin Chambers/Reuters]
Gregory McMichael said he and his son pursued Arbery in the Satilla neighbourhood on February 23 because they believed he a burglar. Gregory McMichael said Arbery was shot in a struggle for Travis’s gun. But Arbery’s mother says she believes he son with just out for a jog.
The case has gripped the country, with many pointing to race as a motivating factor in Arbery’s murder. Questions remain over how the case was handled and why it took two months to make an arrest.
Georgia is one of four states that does not have hate crime laws, but the federal government does have the authority to bring hate crime charges should it deemed them appropriate.
The Department of Justice has previously said it was weighing federal hate crime charges. It also said it was considering a request from Georgia’s attorney general to investigate the handling of the case.
The department did not immediately comment on the Arbery’s family lawyers’ comments on Monday.
Al Jazeera and news agencies