Man who recorded Ahmaud Arbery's shooting on video was just a witness, his lawyer says
The lawyer for the Georgia man who recorded video of two white men shooting Ahmaud Arbery says his client was a witness to the crime and has cooperated with police in the investigation.
The director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Friday it was looking into all people involved in the Arbery case, including the person who shot the video, William "Roddie" Bryan.
Bryan was not aware that he was under investigation until Friday morning when the GBI announced it, said attorney Kevin Gough, who is representing Bryan. Gough released the first public statement on Bryan's behalf Friday afternoon.
"Roddie is a family man, NASCAR fan, and enjoys rock and roll. He is not now, and never has been, a 'vigilante'," Gough said in the statement.
Gough has called on the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to clear his client's name. He says Bryan was a witness to the crime.
Death of Ahmaud Arbery:Why it took more than 2 months for murder charges and arrests
Meanwhile, an attorney for Arbery's family has called for Bryan's arrest, a call that has also been circulating on social media. A memo obtained by USA TODAY written by the district attorney who previously led the investigation into Arbery's death said Bryan had joined the two suspects in "hot pursuit" of Arbery.
Arbery, 25, was killed in February about 2 miles from his home in a neighborhood outside Brunswick, Georgia. Two men, a father and son, were arrested this week on murder and aggravated assault charges.
Gregory McMichael, who has been charged, told police they saw Arbery running and believed he was a burglary suspect, so he and his adult son, Travis, armed themselves, got in a truck and followed him. They told police Arbery attacked them after one of them got out of the truck with a shotgun.
Arbery's family and their attorneys say Arbery was out for a jog when he was killed. They believe he was the victim of racial profiling and have called the killing a lynching.
Here's the latest news on the killing of Ahmaud Arbery:
Who has been arrested?
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation on Thursday night arrested Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis, 34. The father and son were both charged with murder and aggravated assault.
The original decision not to make an arrest, and the more than two months that passed before charges were filed, fueled outcry across the nation as attorneys with Arbery's family saying he was racially profiled. Local officials and community leaders say a history of nepotism and privilege in the district attorney offices of Waycross and Brunswick has allowed the killers to remain free.
Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson had previously recused herself from the case because Gregory McMichael was a retired investigator from her office. Gregory McMichael is also a former Glynn County police officer.
Who released the video?
Video of the incident has been widely shared on social media and it originally was unclear who had released it. But on Thursday, Alan Tucker, a criminal defense lawyer in Brunswick, said he released the video to promote "absolute transparency."
While his firm had not been retained to represent anyone in the case, Tucker said it may be. He also said he obtained the video from the person who recorded it on their cell phone.
Is there another video?
The GBI on Saturday said it was reviewing additional video footage and photographs as part of the murder investigation.
"It is important to note that this footage was reviewed at the beginning of the GBI investigation and before the arrests of Gregory and Travis McMichael," spokesperson Nelly Miles said in a statement.
Attorneys for Arbery's family released a statement Saturday evening describing surveillance video connected to the case, saying it appeared to show a person, believed to be Arbery, enter a property under construction for under three minutes. He did not damage the property, take anything or do anything illegal, the statement said.
"He remained for a brief period of time and was not instructed by anyone to leave but rather left on his own accord to continue his jog," the statement said.
What Arbery's family lawyers say
Arbery's family and their lawyers are calling the killing a modern-day lynching.
"It's so reminiscent of the motivations for lynchings," attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the Arbery family, wrote in USA TODAY. "When Gregory and Travis McMichael saw a young black man jogging down the middle of the road, they assumed he was the person responsible for a string of neighborhood burglaries. After all, he was black. Rather than calling law enforcement to report their suspicions, they appointed themselves Arbery’s judge, jury and executioner."
Civil rights groups including the ACLU, NAACP and Southern Poverty Law Center have called for justice, likening the incident to the controversial killing of Trayvon Martin in which the killer was acquitted.
'Killed in cold blood':Biden, Abrams call for action in shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery
Lawyer: Bryan family harassed, gets threats
Gough, Bryan's lawyer, told USA TODAY that Bryan and his family have received "harassing and threatening communications" this past week. Bryan, who has a fiance and two children, was fired from his job as a mechanic, Gough said.
"His family members have been harassed. They’re genuinely fearful," Gough said. "Here’s someone who videoed what happened. And for two months, he’s a witness. Overnight, he’s suddenly the target of the investigation. That’s a pretty big change of events."
Bryan is a "quiet man" who was at his residence when he "became aware that there was something going on since he lives in the neighborhood," Gough said.
When police responded to the scene, Bryan invited them into his car to watch the video that he had recorded, Gough said. He ultimately went to the police department, gave a copy of the video to authorities and answered their questions, Gough said.
"If he hadn’t made that video, the only version of what took place would have been coming from the two people with the guns," Gough said.
Bryan and Greg McMichael are both listed on the police report as witnesses. When McMichael initially told police what happened, he did not mention Bryan, according to the police report.
Two 911 calls: 'He's running'
Arbery was killed in a small, mostly-white coastal neighborhood about 2 miles away from the home family members say he shared with his mother.
Local officials say Satilla Shores, which is an unincorporated community in Glynn County, Georgia, has remained largely under the radar before the Feb. 23 slaying caught the national spotlight.
At least two 911 calls, obtained by USA TODAY, were made before the shooting. One call details the moments before Arbery was shot dead when a caller indicated a "black guy" in a "white T-shirt" was in Satilla Shores on a property under construction.
"And you said someone's breaking into it right now?" the 911 operator asked.
"No, it's all open, it's under construction. And he's running right now, there he goes right now," the caller said.
The 911 operator later says she is sending police to the scene but "I just need to know what he was doing wrong."
Read more on the 911 calls here:What we know about community where Ahmaud Arbery was shot
Athletes call for federal investigation
A group of prominent current and former athletes and coaches are calling for the FBI and Department of Justice to investigate Arbery's death.
In a letter dated Friday and written on Players Coalition letterhead, the group asks Attorney General William Barr to intervene in the case due to what it describes as conflicts of interest and inaction amid local authorities.
The letter is signed by 64 athletes and coaches, including several members of the Players Coalition, which was founded by NFL players in 2017 to address areas of social and racial inequality.
Will there be hate crime charges?
The McMichaels will not face hate crime charges in Georgia, according to state investigators.
That's because Georgia is one of four states in the U.S. (some argue five) that doesn't have a hate crimes prevention law, according to the Department of Justice. If someone commits a crime motivated by bias, statewide authorities are unable to pursue additional charges or enhanced penalties for the perpetrator.
"There's no hate crime in Georgia," Georgia Bureau of Investigations Director Vic Reynolds said in a press conference Friday when asked whether the men would face those charges.
A hate crimes could still be reported to the FBI, according to the DOJ. In South Carolina, for example, which does not have a state hate crimes law, the white supremacist who fatally shot nine African Americans at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston in 2015 later faced federal hate crime charges.