The Black Plight Series
What Happened to Their Killers
Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd are the latest examples of the black plight in the United States. All were unjustly killed at the hands of white men or police officers, and Americans everywhere have fiercely reacted, via social media and in the streets of cities across the nation.
In the Black Plight Series, we will examine the lives and deaths of Arbery, Taylor and Floyd, the legal response to their killers, and how their demises have impacted the nation as a whole.
In Part V, we will examine where the killers of Arbery, Taylor and Floyd are today.
Ahmaud Arbery’s Killers Were Arrested 74 Days Later
Ahmaud Arbery was murdered on Feb. 23.
The men that murdered him – Travis and Gregory McMichael – were finally arrested on May 7, two days after a video shot by William Bryan on a cel phone became public. They were both charged with felony murder and aggravated assault.
Bryan was arrested on May 21, two weeks after the McMichaels. He was charged with felony murder and attempted false imprisonment.
However, the arrests didn’t come without a struggle.
The shooting did not receive national attention, probably because it happened near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Jackie Johnson – the prosecutor for the Brunswick Judicial Court – recused herself from the case because she and Gregory had formerly worked in the same office. Then, George E. Barnhill – the district attorney in Waycross, GA – recused himself as well, after Arbery’s mother pointed out that his son worked in the same office as Gregory as well.
However, prior to his recusal, Barnhill wrote a letter to the Glynn County Police Department, advising them not to arrest Arbery’s murderers, citing a lack of probable cause.
Barnhill – a white man – noted that Georgia has an open carry law and that both McMichaels were legally carrying guns. He also said that state law allowed for the McMichaels to pursue Arbery because they believed him to be a burglary suspect and that “A private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge.”
Arbery had committed no crimes. The McMichaels just suspected that he might have, given a recent string of thefts in the neighborhood in which Arbery jogged.
Barnhill also wrote that when the McMichaels pursued Arbery and Travis exited the vehicle, “Arbery initiated the fight,” which then allowed Travis to “use deadly force to protect himself.”
And in conclusion, Barnhill wrote the following:
“Arbery’s mental health records & prior convictions help explain his apparent aggressive nature and his possible thought pattern to attack an armed man.”
In other words, according to Barnhill, no arrests needed to be made because Ahmaud was responsible for his own death.
Breonna Taylor’s Killers Remain Free
On March 13, three plainclothes cops executed a “no-knock” warrant at Breonna Taylor’s apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, at 12:30 a.m. They entered through the front door with a battering ram, and when Taylor’s boyfriend shot at the officers, thinking they were intruders, the three officers fired 20 rounds into the apartment.
Taylor was shot at least eight times and died shortly after.
Shockingly, the incident report listed Taylor’s injuries as “none,” and officers checked “no” next to the box that asked if there was forced entry. Both witnesses and crime scene photos showed that there was indeed forced entry.
The Louisville Metro Police Department has said that technical errors led to the inaccurate and nearly blank report.
Mayor Greg Fischer called the report “unacceptable.”
“Full stop. It’s issues like this that erode public confidence in LMPD’s ability to do its job, and that’s why I’ve ordered an external top-to-bottom review of the department. I am sorry for the additional pain to the Taylor family and our community.” – Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer
After the incident, Mattingly, Hankinson and Cosgrove were all put on administrative reassignment, but none have been arrested or charged.
On Friday, Fischer took a step towards Hankinson being terminated.
— Mayor Greg Fischer (@louisvillemayor) June 19, 2020
In a termination letter filed by the LMPD on Friday, it was noted that Hankinson blindly fired 10 rounds into the apartment.
The attorney general’s office is now left to decide if the three officers should be arrested and hit with criminal charges, which a large portion of the nation has been calling for.
George Floyd’s Killers Have Been Arrested and Charged
On May 25, Derek Chauvin leaned his left knee on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds – a time that prosecutors in Hennepin County, Minnesota have disputed.
Regardless of the length of time Chauvin’s knee rested on Floyd’s neck, it resulted in the death of the 46-year old black man while three other officers looked on – Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane.
All four officers were fired the following day by the Minneapolis Police Department, and on May 29, Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Four days later, on June 3, his charges were enhanced to second-degree murder, and the other three officers were arrested and charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
On June 10, Lane posted bail and was released.
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Like so many of you, I’m pained by these recent tragedies. And I’m exhausted by a heartbreak that never seems to stop. Right now it’s George, Breonna, and Ahmaud. Before that it was Eric, Sandra, and Michael. It just goes on, and on, and on. Race and racism is a reality that so many of us grow up learning to just deal with. But if we ever hope to move past it, it can’t just be on people of color to deal with it. It’s up to all of us—Black, white, everyone—no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out. It starts with self-examination and listening to those whose lives are different from our own. It ends with justice, compassion, and empathy that manifests in our lives and on our streets. I pray we all have the strength for that journey, just as I pray for the souls and the families of those who were taken from us. Artwork: @nikkolas_smith