Ahmaud Arbery’s father on verdict: ‘We just kept fighting’

Race in America

(NewsNation Now) — After three men were convicted of murder for her son’s death, Ahmaud Arbery’s mother said Wednesday that she never thought she’d see the day come.

“It’s been a long fight. It’s been a hard fight. But God is good,” Wanda Cooper-Jones told a crowd gathered outside the courthouse in Glynn County, Georgia. “To tell the truth, I never saw this day back in 2020. I never thought this day would come. But God is good.”

Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan were found guilty on several charges, including felony murder in the 2020 death of Arbery, who was chased and fatally shot while running through their coastal Georgia neighborhood in an attack that became part of the larger national reckoning on racial injustice.

BRUNSWICK, GEORGIA – NOVEMBER 24: Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, reacts after the jury verdict was announced during the trial of Greg McMichel and his son, Travis McMichael, and a neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan in the Glynn County Courthouse on November 24, 2021 in Brunswick, Georgia. Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and a neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan are charged with the February, 2020 fatal shooting of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery. (Photo by Stephen B. Morton-Pool/Getty Images)

The McMichaels told police they suspected Arbery was a fleeing burglar when they armed themselves and jumped in a pickup truck to chase him on Feb. 23, 2020. Bryan joined the pursuit when they passed his house and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael blasting Arbery at close range with a shotgun as Arbery threw punches and grabbed for the weapon.

One of the Arbery family’s attorneys, Benjamin Crump, released a statement after the jury’s verdict.

“Guilty. Guilty. Guilty,” Crump posted on Twitter. “After nearly two years of pain, suffering and wondering if Ahmaud’s killers would be held to account, the Arbery family finally has some justice.”

The Congressional Black Caucus said “Justice has been served,” and called on a continued effort to push criminal justice reform and “common-sense gun control measures.”

President Joe Biden said in a statement that the verdict is not enough and called for a future of unity.

“While the guilty verdicts reflect our justice system doing its job, that alone is not enough,” he continued. “Instead, we must recommit ourselves to building a future of unity and shared strength, where no one fears violence because of the color of their skin,” Biden said.

He said his administration “will continue to do the hard work to ensure that equal justice under law is not just a phrase emblazoned in stone above the Supreme Court, but a reality for all Americans.”

In a statement, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp lauded the verdict in the murder trial and called for “reconciliation.”

“Ahmaud Arbery was the victim of vigilantism justice that has no place in Georgia,” Gov. Brian Kemp tweeted

Stacey Abrams, a Democrat who lost the Georgia gubernatorial race in 2018 to Brian Kemp, wrote on Twitter that “a jury believed the evidence of their eyes and saw the meanness in the killers’ hearts. May this verdict bring a small measure of peace to #AhmaudArbery’s family and loved ones.”

Rev. Al Sharpton said outside the Brunswick, Georgia courthouse: “Let the word go forth all over the world that a jury of 11 whites and one black in the Deep South stood up in the courtroom and said that Black lives do matter.”

BRUNSWICK, GEORGIA – NOVEMBER 24: Travis McMichael looks back at his mother and sister in the courtroom after the jury convicted him for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in the Glynn County Courthouse, on November 24, 2021 in Brunswick, Georgia. Greg McMichael and his son, Travis, and a neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, were charged with the death of Ahmaud Arbery and convicted of murder in the fatal shooting that became part of a larger national reckoning on racial injustice. (Photo by Stephen B. Morton-Pool/Getty Images)

Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr., said on Twitter: “#AhmaudArbery should be here. The McMichaels and Bryan are indeed guilty of taking his life for no other reason than for him being Black. I’m praying for and thinking of Ahmaud’s family, including his mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, who in this moment, is still missing her son.” 

Many celebrities tweeted that justice had been served, including actress Viola Davis who tweeted a message to Ahmaud’s mother.

“As it should be. To Wanda….Ahmaud Arbery’s mother….. your son mattered. His life mattered,” she wrote.

Shortly after reconvening Wednesday morning, the jurors requested to see two versions of the video that showed the shooting of Arbery — the original and one that investigators enhanced to reduce shadows — three times apiece. The jury also listened again to the 911 call one of the defendants made from the bed of a pickup truck about 30 seconds before the shooting.

Arbery’s killing became part of a larger national reckoning on racial injustice after the graphic video of his death leaked online two months later, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case, quickly arresting the three men. Each of them is charged with murder and other crimes.

Defense attorneys contend the McMichaels were attempting a legal citizen’s arrest when they set off after Arbery, seeking to detain and question him as a suspected burglar after he was seen running from a nearby home under construction.

Travis McMichael testified that he shot Arbery in self-defense, saying the running man turned and attacked with his fists while running past the idling truck where Travis McMichael stood with his shotgun.

Prosecutors said there was no evidence Arbery had committed crimes in the defendants’ neighborhood. He had enrolled at a technical college and was preparing at the time to study to become an electrician like his uncles.

BRUNSWICK, GA – NOVEMBER 24: People react to the appearance of Ahmaud Arbery’s family and their attorneys outside the Glynn County Courthouse following guilty verdicts for the defendants in the trial of the killers of Ahmaud Arbery on November 24, 2021 in Brunswick, Georgia. Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and a neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan were found guilty in the February, 2020 fatal shooting of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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