The shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia is being investigated as a federal hate crime, the family’s attorneys say, as three white men face murder charges in the death of the 25-year-old black man, CBS News reported.
Three men have been arrested in Arbery’s death: Travis McMichael, who got into a physical altercation with Arbery and actually shot him; Gregory McMichael, Travis’s father who was with him during the pursuit; and William Bryan, who was also pursuing Arbery and recording the incident.
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Hate crime statutes can allow for harsher penalties for the offenders, but the state of Georgia does not have hate crime laws on the books — one of only four states without them. The Department of Justice has the authority to step in and investigate potential hate crimes when states don’t have such laws or the state laws don’t cover a particular situation.
Arbery’s death has become a national story since video of his death was published online in early May, leading to the arrests of the McMichaels more than two months after the fatal incident. Many perceive the shooting to be racially motivated. From CBS News:
Attorneys for Arbery’s family said the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia Bobby Christine and his office will look into why Glynn County and the state of Georgia took more than two months to make an arrest and whether the region has historically violated the rights of its citizens. The U.S. Attorney said he plans to file criminal and civil charges.
The McMichaels and Bryan were pursuing Arbery after he entered an open home under construction, allegedly believing him to be the same person who had committed burglaries in the community in recent months. Arbery’s mother said he was out jogging for exercise, and the owner of the property in question believes Arbery may have stopped in the house to get some water.