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Mother Of Ahmaud Arbery Files Civil Lawsuit On Anniversary Of Son's Killing

A mural depicting Ahmaud Arbery in July 2020 in Brunswick, Ga. Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William "Roddie" Bryan are facing murder charges in connection with his death.
Sean Rayford
Getty Images
A mural depicting Ahmaud Arbery in July 2020 in Brunswick, Ga. Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William "Roddie" Bryan are facing murder charges in connection with his death.

The mother of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old Black man who was chased and gunned down by a group of white men in Glynn County, Ga., filed a multi-million dollar civil lawsuit against several people involved in the killing or the subsequent investigation.

The lawsuit filed by Wanda Cooper on Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia comes exactly one year after her son's murder.

The suit names Gregory and Travis McMichael, the father and son, as well as William "Roddie" Bryan, all of whom are white and facing felony murder charges in connection to Arbery's death.

The suit also names law enforcement officials and local prosecutors who it claims were intimately involved with an alleged cover-up and "willfully and maliciously conspired to follow, threaten, detain and kill Ahmaud Arbery."

The complaint lists fourteen counts including excessive force, failure to prevent harm and willful and wonton misconduct. It says the defendants "were motivated to deprive Ahmaud Arbery of equal protection of the law and his rights by racial bias, animus, discrimination."

According to the lawsuit, the only reason the McMichaels and Bryan began their pursuit of Arbery is because he "was a Black man."

Arbery's family has characterized his death as a modern-day lynching, saying he was merely running through a Brunswick, Ga.-area neighborhood when the McMichaels spotted him. The McMichaels, suspecting Arbery was behind a string of recent thefts in neighborhood, grabbed firearms, hopped in pickup truck and began to chase him.

Bryan later joined the pursuit, according to investigators.

The older McMichael was armed with a .357 Magnum and his son had a shotgun. Once the men caught up to Arbery, the younger McMichael got out of the truck with his gun and engaged with Arbery.

After a short tussle, the younger McMichael shot twice, killing Arbery.

Ten weeks passed between Arbery's death and the first arrests in the case. Those arrests happened two days after Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the investigation from local authorities.

Last year, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr asked the GBI to investigate "possible prosecutorial misconduct" by former Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson and George Barnhill of the Waycross Judicial Circuit. Johnson and Barnhill were both named in the lawsuit filed by Arbery's mother.

The case has drawn national attention, particularly after the release of cell phone video of the encounter that was captured by Bryan.

Arbery's name became part of a rallying cry during last summer's national protests calling for an end to systemic racism and police brutality in the U.S., joining others such as Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks.

The U.S. Justice Department confirmed to NPR in May that federal authorities are "assessing all of the evidence to determine whether federal hate crimes charges are appropriate."

Read the complaint below.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.