S. Lee Merritt, a noted civil rights attorney who also defended the families of Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson and accusers of R. Kelly, sat down in an exclusive with The Shade Room to share why Ahmaud Arbery, his latest client, was captured on surveillance video surveying a neighboring construction just steps away from where he was eventually brutally gunned down on February 23.
According to Merritt, Arbery was excited about the possibility of becoming an electrician and was interested in infrastructure.
“He had two uncles on his mother’s side that were electricians, and he was entering an apprenticeship as an electrician,” Merritt said. “As you can see in the video, he looks up at the wiring, the walls, and the architecture– as you would expect someone with those interests to do.”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation released a video of Arbery standing in the construction site, just hours before his death. A neighbor who was called on to survey the property believes he spotted Arbery at the site two weeks prior to the shooting. But the owner of the property told CNN that he did not want to assign any suspicions to Arbery because nothing was taken from the site.
The men arrested in Arbery’s death investigation claim they were propelled to follow Arbery due to a string of recent break-ins in the Brunswick, Georgia neighborhood, but a series of reported burglaries in the surrounding area was never proven.
This week, surveillance tape released from the site show several people visited the property in the time frame of Arbery’s death, yet he was the only one who was targeted.
Merritt also divulged the challenges in proving Arbery’s murder was a hate crime in a court of law. Though Arbery’s suspected killers, Gregory and Travis MicMichael were arrested earlier this month, calls have widened for the duo to face hate crime charges. The state of Georgia does not have a hate crime law on the books.
Merrit’s revelation comes as a 2017 video was released showing a police encounter where Arbery was tased by officers who claimed suspicion of drug dealing. In the video Arbery asserts that he has done nothing wrong, but was enjoying his day off rapping to songs in his car. The daughter and sister of the McMichaels also recently apologized for sharing images of Arbery’s body on Snapchat.
The obsession with displaying imagery showcasing the death of Black people in America continues on. However, it is not provocative nor endearing, to do this for the sake of sport, and is also becoming debatable regarding whether doing so actually exposes injustice. Yet it is a maddening reality because we know that without the viral footage of Arbery’s death, the McMichaels would still be roaming free.
Sharing and retweeting images of a Black person’s death is not the only way to demand justice. As the case continues to unravel, leading up to trial, details emerge to help put together on what happened during that winter night in Brunswick, Georgia.