Ahmaud Arbery – Known, Unknown, and Thoughts

Didn't we learn this lesson with George Zimmerman!?

The video of the death of Ahmaud Arbery has sparked national interest in a way that only a story that has vigilantism, racial tensions, guns, law enforcement nepotism, and being in the southern United States could… seriously, it’s a perfect storm of controversy.

The narrative, depending on where you look, ranges from ‘Unarmed 25 year old black man, suspected of being inside a house under construction, pursued by former/retired LEO and his son in their pickup truck, confronted, a fight ensued, shot and killed.’ to ‘Jogging black 25 year old killed by white father and son caught on video.’

Also, depending upon where you look, the obvious overt racial aspect of this is played higher or lower in the motive que. I’ve heard and read all the explanations from either side of the story I could find. Read both 911 transcripts prior to the shooting. Read a story where a relative of Arbery was said to have ID’d him in surveillance video around the property under construction or maybe another property, it wasn’t clear. Been told that Arbery was in boots, not running shoes and shown grainy screen captures that purport to show an unlaced boot. Read that Arbery was a fitness type and ran regularly. Read a couple things that state Arbery had a record, but I haven’t seen it produced. Read that the local investigators marked this as a “clear case of self-defense” but that has since become highly questionable.

I’ve been told Arbery ‘shouldn’t have rushed two guys with guns’ from people who emphatically state that if two guys with guns corned them it would be game on because they, “always carry.” Having a conversation with someone who says they would take out two gun toters John Wick style after advocating Arbery “just comply” with the hostile commands of two gun toters (with no authority over him) is an interesting perspective…

The video, which gives us a 36 second window of information including the three fired shots, seems to indicate one thing above all else…

This was entirely avoidable.

As of this writing both Travis and Gregory McMichael have been arrested for murder and they, at best for themselves, must hope they have enough evidence to end up in a similar situation to George Zimmerman. Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin in self defense, was able to prove with witness testimony and injury reports that Martin had been trying to crack his skull open… This after Zimmerman chased Martin with no legal authority, other than being the neighborhood watch captain or some such, and provoked a confrontation.

Provoking.

A.

Confrontation.

Is.

Stupid.

The reason Zimmerman is a free man is that he was not the person to escalate the confrontation to lethal, and he could prove it. What he did was still stupid.

The McMichael’s are going to have a damn hard time framing this in the same light. Jumping into the bed of a pickup truck with a .357 and having your son chase the man, who you said you think you saw trespassing in a residential construction site, down with a shotgun riding shotgun is epic degrees more aggressive than Zimmerman’s actions were chasing Martin.

If you were in the situation, as a concealed carrier from Arbery’s perspective, and had drawn and shot the two armed men who chased you down in a pickup truck while you were on foot, your defense attorney would have an absolute field day getting you acquitted. Any attorney with a pulse would be able to articulate that Arbery’s life was in danger as two unknown armed men cut him off in a pickup truck and then the driver got out and threatened him with a shotgun.

The video doesn’t show the first fired shot, we hear it happen out of frame. But whatever happened in front of the McMichael’s truck caused a shot to be fired, the next we see is a physical struggle between Arbery and Travis McMichael over the shotgun. During that struggle two more shots are fired and Arbery is hit. Arbery then collapses in front of the McMichael’s truck in the road, where he would die.

Known

We know, from the video, the 911 transcripts, and the McMichael’s own admissions that a call was placed to 911 to report a trespass in a home construction site and alleged that the individual they currently saw, Arbery, had been seen on surveillance camera prior to this. We know that a second call was placed to 911 that said the individual, Arbery, was running down the road. During both calls the dispatcher attempts to ascertain what was observed that was criminal and is not really given an answer beyond the alleged observed trespass of the construction site.

We know that the McMichael’s decided to pursue the running individual, Arbery, to make a “citizen’s arrest” as they claim. They decided to do so armed overtly and openly. We know that they drove down Arbery and cut him off with their truck as he is running down the road at a pace consistent with exercise.

We know Travis McMichael, who was driving, got out of the truck with the shotgun. Travis McMichael can be seen on the driver’s side of the pickup as Arbery runs around the truck on the passenger side. The camera follows Arbery.

We know a shot was fired, out of camera frame, and that when Arbery and Travis McMichael come back into frame Travis and Arbery are struggling for the shotgun in front of the truck. It isn’t known if the first shot was fired at Arbery or if it was the result of the struggle over the shotgun. At the point where they both come back into frame they are struggling in front of the truck. Travis, out of frame, had to have moved in front of the truck while Arbery ran around the passenger side. Gregory McMichael was riding in the truck bed.

We do not see the specific circumstances that led to the first shot being fired. We don’t know if Travis fired in an attempt to make Arbery pause, to injure him, or in response to Arbery grabbing or attempting to grab the shotgun after they had both come around the front of the truck. We do not hear what, if any, words were exchanged during the confrontation. We do not know if the first shot was deliberate, accidental, or negligent.

We do know that of the string of burglaries alleged to have been motivation for this confrontational “citizen’s arrest” the one actually on record was the theft of a 9mm handgun from out of one of the McMichael’s unlocked vehicles and in front of their house.

We also know there is a history between Gregory McMichael and the local law community, as he is a retired investigator. We know two people recused themselves from the case due to prior connections to the McMichael family and after an information request by an Air Force MP acquaintance of Arbery led to questions about the investigation. This began the line of inquiry into whether or not Gregory McMichael’s prior connections as an investigator led to favoritism or other misconduct on the part of investigators so as not jail one of their own retirees and/or his son.

Unknown

We don’t know what Arbery was doing prior to the video, if he was trespassing or not. There might be evidence to that effect out there but I have not seen footage to indicate Arbery was caught anywhere else on camera as has been alleged. We also do not know if any property or any other evidence of any kind of misconduct on Arbery’s part has been presented in direct connection with this incident. I’ve seen a couple blurry screenshots that allege to show a hammer Arbery dropped while running in an attempt to call into question the ‘just jogging’ narrative.

[Newsflash: The ‘Just Jogging’ Narrative, doesn’t matter. Arbery could have left the construction site with a sawhorse over each shoulder and pushing a rolling tool chest full of power tools and the actions of the McMichaels would still be lining them up to catch their murder charges.]

We do not know what, if anything, was said between Arbery and the McMichaels.

We do not know the exact circumstances of the first shot fired. We do know the shooter, Travis, and his father have a vested interest in claiming self defense as the motive for the shot(s) that killed Arbery. If they cannot claim that then.. well, murder charges. Manslaughter if they’re lucky.

Thoughts

What a stupid and entirely avoidable way to end or ruin the lives of three people…

Didn’t we learn this lesson? Wasn’t this type of vigilantism proven to be roughly as intelligent as playing with a live high-voltage line while drenched in flammable liquids? Do we need to have a Paul Blart: Mall Cop remake where he actually makes a “citizen’s arrest” but ends up in prison because he misread a set of circumstances and assumed outcomes he couldn’t possibly know for certain?

It’s a sad state to have put yourselves in when your best outcome is a jury believing you were idiotic, overzealous, but sincerely altruistic vigilanties just trying to help their neighborhood

When you make something ‘your problem’ that didn’t need to be.. you inherit the whole damn mess. Every detail that you know and don’t know. And every mistake you make within that situation is yours to own, and yours only, because you stuck yourself into it.

Instead, always assume you don’t know what is going on and make all of your conscious decisions about cautiously becoming involved at all from that point of view. Your lawyer will thank you.

The thought process that would have changed this entire scenario, resulting in one less dead man, two less murder charges, and one less racially charged police scandal – “Huh, I think that man is trespassing on my neighbor’s housing construction. I will call the police and tell them I believe someone is trespassing on the construction project and give them his physical description. I might even call my neighbor and ask first, or wait until I see him next time and ask, instead of making dangerous and potentially life altering assumptions.” The End.

Keith Finch
Keith is the Editor-in-Chief of GAT Marketing Group editor@gatdaily.com A USMC Infantry Veteran and Small Arms and Artillery Technician, Keith covers the evolving training and technology from across the shooting industry. A Certified Instructor since 2009 he has taught concealed weapons courses in the West Michigan area in the years since and continues to pursue training and teaching opportunities as they arise.