BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP/WSAV) — Georgia’s governor says state agencies will be in place Thursday as a hearing for three men charged with murder in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery takes place.
“We will have a strong state law enforcement presence in the region to support the local government,” Gov. Brian Kemp said during a press conference Tuesday where he discussed ongoing statewide protests for George Floyd.
With protests that have turned violent as people across the country demand justice for Arbery, Floyd, and others, Kemp said the added policed presence will help ensure the court proceedings will not be disrupted.
The Georgia State Patrol, the Department of Natural Resources officers, Georgia National Guard troops, Georgia Emergency Management Agency officials, and others will be present.
“We will take the appropriate actions to hold bad actors accountable if they try to infiltrate what has been very peaceful gatherings in that community for well over a month now,” the governor added.
Arbery was killed Feb. 23 when a white father and son armed themselves and pursued the 25-year-old black man after spotting him running in their neighborhood just outside the port city of Brunswick. More than two months passed before Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34, were arrested May 7 on charges of felony murder and aggravated assault.
A neighbor of the McMichaels, 50-year-old William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., was charged last Thursday with felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. Bryan is the man whose cellphone video of the shooting, which leaked online two days before the McMichaels’ arrests, ignited a national outcry over the case.
Glynn County Magistrate Court Judge Wallace E. Harrell will determine whether authorities had sufficient evidence to charge the men in Arbery’s death. All three men remain jailed pending a bond hearing before a different judge.
Defense attorneys for the McMichaels have urged people not to rush to judgment in the case. Gregory McMichael told police he suspected Arbery was a burglar and that Arbery attacked his son right before being shot. Arbery’s family has said he was merely out jogging.
Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, has insisted his client played no role in Arbery’s death. The arrest warrant for Bryan says he used a vehicle to illegally try to “confine and detain” Arbery.
The 25-year-old’s death has become part of a national cry for justice that surged after Floyd died after Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for eight minutes. Three other officers were present. In recent days, peaceful protests have been held in Georgia and throughout the nation, some turning violent.
“Let me be clear once again: we will not tolerate disruptive or dangerous behavior, including criminal conduct,” Kemp said. “We will put the safety of our citizens first.”
A Savannah judge will preside over the case. Arbery’s family is expected to make an appearance and potentially speak in the court hearing.