The Georgia man who recorded the shocking video of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery being shot to death has been charged with murder, authorities announced Thursday.
William Bryan Jr. was arrested and charged with felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment on Thursday in connection with Arbery’s February slaying while he was jogging on a residential street in Brunswick, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said. He is currently being held in Glynn County Jail.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation alleges that on Feb. 23, Gregory McMichael and his son Travis confronted Arbery while he was on a run about two miles from his home. During the confrontation, Travis McMichael shot the 25-year-old, according to authorities.
Bryan captured part of the incident on video, which shows the father and son armed with a shotgun and a .357 Magnum as they chase Arbery, who was unarmed, in a white truck. At the end of the video, a shot is fired while Arbery tries to run around the truck. Then, Arbery and another man appear to get into a struggle as two more shots are fired.
In a statement to The Daily Beast, lawyers for Arbery’s parents said the family is “relieved” to learn of Bryan’s arrest.
“We called for his arrest from the very beginning of this process. 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,” S. Lee Merritt, Benjamin Crump, and L. Chris Stewart said in a joint statement. “The family of Mr. Arbery is thankful for the diligence of the GBI and the way in which they tirelessly pursued the evidence in this case. We want anyone who participated in the murder of Mr. Arbery to be held accountable.”
Gregory and Travis McMichael currently face murder and aggravated assault charges for allegedly chasing down and killing Arbery.
The slaying—which many have described as a “lynching”—and the subsequent investigation spurred a national outcry and a Department of Justice investigation days after the graphic footage of Arbery’s shooting in the Satilla Shores neighborhood emerged. The McMichaels’ arrest also prompted calls for Bryan to face criminal punishment.
“The arrest of Bryan today, almost three months after Arbery was murdered, underscores the need for federal action,” Becky Monroe, director of the Fighting Hate and Bias program at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, told The Daily Beast. “The U.S. Department of Justice must open an investigation into systemic police and prosecutorial misconduct for a pattern or practice of civil rights violations. We also reiterate our call for a federal hate crimes investigation into the murder of Arbery.”
During the chase, the McMichaels said they tried to cut off Arbery, who avoided them and turned around to run in the opposite direction. At one point, according to the initial police report, the McMichaels said Bryan “attempted to block him, which was unsuccessful.”
“His family deserves justice from not only the two men who have been arrested, but from anyone who participated in that act,” S. Lee Merritt, one of the attorneys for Arbery’s family, told CNN’s Don Lemon.
Bryan’s 36-second video, taken inside a vehicle, was released by Alan Tucker, a local criminal defense lawyer who had informally consulted with the McMichaels and wanted to dispel rumors about the incident that was fueling tensions in the Georgia suburb.
“It wasn’t two men with a Confederate flag in the back of a truck going down the road and shooting a jogger in the back,” Tucker told The New York Times. “It got the truth out there as to what you could see. My purpose was not to exonerate them or convict them.”
But the video incited national outage, leading to the charges against three people more than two months after Arbery was shot. Prior to the graphic footage, the young man’s case was bounced to three local prosecutors—two of whom are currently under investigation—before it was ultimately referred to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Local officials had argued Arbery’s death was “justifiable homicide.”
All three cases are now being handled by District Attorney Joyette Holmes of the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office.
On Tuesday, Bryan’s lawyer asserted his client had taken a lie detector test, which he said proved his client was unarmed during the shooting and did not have any conversations with the McMichaels prior to the tragic incident.
“Mr. Bryan is not your enemy,” Kevin Gough, his attorney, said in a Tuesday press conference. “Please stop doing and saying things that place Roddie and his family in danger. Whether you believe it or not, you’ve put a target on his back.”
The McMichaels have asserted they were chasing Arbery along the tree-lined road because they wanted to make a citizen’s arrest of a man they suspected of being a burglar. Authorities, however, have said there were no break-ins reported in the seven weeks prior to Arbery’s death.
Despite the national outcry over his slaying, two defense attorneys retained by Gregory McMichael claimed in a statement to The Daily Beast that a “rush to judgment” has caused the public to vilify their client.
“This is not some sort of hate crime fueled by racism,” defense attorney Frank Hogue said at a press conference last week. “It is and remains the case, however, that a young African-American male has lost his life to violence.”
Hogue added that the defense team has amassed additional witnesses, documents, and more video footage—which he believes “tells a very different story, both about Greg, about his son, Travis, and about Ahmaud Arbery.”