Ahmaud Arbery’s mother has filed a lawsuit alleging that local law enforcement officials and the men who killed her son conspired to protect Arbery’s assailants. On the one-year anniversary of Arbery’s death near Brunswick, Georgia, Wanda Cooper-Jones filed a suit seeking more than $1 million in damages and naming as defendants the three men who killed Arbery as well as several district attorneys, the county government and a handful of law enforcement officers.
“For nearly three months, Glynn County police officers, the chief of police, and two prosecutors conspired to hide the circumstances surrounding Ahmaud’s death and to protect the men who murdered him,” the complaint alleges, before painting a picture of underhanded dealings and intentional mishandling of the case.
Jones’ lawsuit highlights that one of the men who pursued and ultimately killed Arbery as he jogged through a subdivision was a former investigator for the local district attorney’s office. Greg McMichael was carrying a service weapon that he was issued as a former member of the Glynn County Police. Text messages from current police officers within the organization make in clear that McMichael was essentially deputized by the department, when a local homeowner concerned with a string of break-ins was put in touch with McMichael by Officer Robert Rash. Rash told the homeowner to call McMichael if he noticed anything suspicious on a camera on his property. McMichael’s son Travis ultimately shot and killed Arbery after the two men and a neighbor confronted the 25-year-old.
The case alleges that McMichael’s law enforcement connections extended well beyond the officers. He had worked as an investigator for former district attorney Jackie Johnson. The suit claims she had personally intervened on behalf of McMichael when he was in danger of losing his arrest powers, due to a failure to complete state-mandated training. It also claims she instructed the officers on-scene to not arrest the three men. Taken together, Cooper-Jones hopes to show that the D.A. created a presumption of impunity for McMichael.
The lawsuit also points a finger at Ware County District Attorney George Barnhill, who took the case from Johnson after she recused herself. Barnhill was eventually forced to recuse himself over his connections to the defendants and Johnson, but not before he allegedly spread word that Arbery was on video robbing nearby houses. The lawsuit says Barnhill gave several statements justifying Arvery’s killing preemptively, while the investigation was ongoing. Cooper-Jones’ complaint closes with the idea that a conspiracy would have been successful if the video of Arbery’s killing hadn’t been released.