SAVANNAH, Ga. (NewsNation Now) — The mother of Ahmaud Arbery is accusing police and prosecutors of an attempted cover-up and delay of justice exactly one year after her son was killed while jogging through a Georgia neighborhood.
Wanda Cooper’s attorney filed a civil rights lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia Tuesday, the anniversary of his death. The complaint seeks $1 million.
Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was killed on Feb. 23, 2020, after three white men armed with guns pursued him as he ran through a neighborhood in the Georgia port city of Brunswick.
The shooter, Travis McMichael, his father, Greg McMichael, and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, were all named in the lawsuit Tuesday. They’re awaiting trial on murder charges.
The McMichaels had told police they stopped Arbery because they believed he may have been linked to recent break-ins in the area. The confrontation led to Travis McMichael shooting Arbery three times at close range.
Gregory McMichael was a retired investigator with the Brunswick County District Attorney’s Office, NewsNation affiliate WSAV reported.
Immediately after the shooting, police interviewed Arbery’s killer and the two others involved in the chase and let them walk free. The first prosecutor assigned to the case saw no reason to bring charges.
Arbery had been dead for more than two months when a national outcry erupted after cellphone video of the shooting leaked online May 5. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case the next day and quickly arrested the McMichaels and Bryan on murder charges.
“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 lawsuit states. “And none of this would have been discovered but for video footage leaked to the media, which showed the horrific and brutal murder of Ahmaud.”
Attorneys for the men charged with killing Arbery say they suspected he was a burglar and committed no crimes.
The lawsuit filed by Arbery’s mother this week names Glynn County, which oversees the police department, as well as the country’s former police chief, John Powell, and Officer Robert Rash. It also names Jackie Johnson, district attorney for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, and George Barnhill, district attorney of the Waycross Judicial Circuit.
The lawsuit alleges that Jackie Johnson, who knew Gregory McMichael personally, urged law enforcement not to make any arrests. Johnson later recused herself from the case, WSAV reported.
Cooper’s lawsuit additionally claims that Barnhill issued a letter slandering Arbery’s name to justify the murder. Barnhill also later recused himself from the case.
Read the full lawsuit below:
The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate WSAV contributed to this report.