The U.S. Justice Department will look for evidence to launch a hate crime investigation into the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, according to family attorney S. Lee Merritt. Georgia is one of four states that does not have a hate crime law on the books, including South Carolina, Wyoming and Arkansas.
Arbery was a 25-year-old unarmed Black man who was shot by two neighborhood vigilantes in Brunswick, Georgia, on February 23.
Lawyers for Arbery’s family revealed the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia Bobby Christine and his office will probe the case’s handling in order to determine why it took almost three months to make an arrest. Authorities will also determine whether a hate crime took place which could bring forth criminal and civil charges, CBS News reports.
Arbery’s death investigation, which only became a national concern after his last moments were captured in a viral video, has taken a series of important turns over the last three weeks after the video’s release.
The two men shown on camera with Arbery in his final moments, Gregory and Travis McMichael, were arrested two days after the video’s release. Last week, William Bryan, the man who shot the video, was arrested after investigators concluded he was not merely a witness who wanted justice for Arbery’s family.
When Arbery was shot and killed on February 23, the presiding District Attorney of Glynn County, Jackie Johnson, recused herself from the case. Johnson stated that her prior working relationship with Gregory McMichael was the cause for recusal.
Following, the case was passed to George Barnhill, who decided not to press charges against the McMichaels. He also ended up recusing himself, which led to the office of District Attorney Tom Durden, who called for charges to be bought to a grand jury. The case is now in the hands of Cobb County prosecutor, Joyette Holmes.
The DOJ is reportedly also looking into the recusals of Johnson and Barnhill, which was called for among many civil rights groups including the Georgia National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).