Ahmaud Arbery’s heartbroken mom has said she hopes her son’s killers spend the rest of their lives behind bars and revealed he was born on Mother’s Day in 1994 so this weekend will be ‘especially hard’ without him.
Wanda Cooper, the mother of the 25-year-old unarmed black jogger who was shot and killed by a white father and son ‘vigilante’ team, spoke out over her son’s brutal slaying on what would have been his 26th birthday and slammed law enforcement for failing to bring his killers to justice for months.
‘Today was a very emotional day as it was his birthday,’ she told CNN Tonight Friday.
‘I felt better after the arrests last evening. But the weekend is going to be especially hard as I had Ahmaud back in 1994 on Mother’s Day.’
Ahmaud Arbery’s heartbroken mom Wanda Cooper (above) has said she hopes her son’s killers spend the rest of their lives behind bars and revealed he was born on Mother’s Day in 1994 so this weekend will be ‘especially hard’ without him
Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34, were finally arrested Thursday and charged with murder and aggravated assault for the shooting death of Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia, back in February after footage of the attack leaked online Tuesday and sparked outrage across America.
Cooper blasted the authorities for letting her son’s killers walk free for a staggering 74 days after his death, saying they simply took the ‘words from the actual murderers’.
‘I think that they were actually taking the words from the actual murderers,’ she told CNN.
‘They took their word, they believed what they said and they had not planned to make an arrest.’
Cooper said she wanted to thank everyone who had shown support for her and her family at this time and said she now hopes justice will be served to the McMichaels.
‘What I’m seeking is those guys – all the guys who were involved in the murder of my son – go to prison possibly for the rest of their lives,’ she said.
Wanda Cooper (left) and attorney Lee Merritt (right) spoke on CNN Tonight Friday on what would have been Arbery’s 26th birthday
Ahmaud Arbery pictured. Cooper blasted the authorities for letting her son’s killers walk free for a staggering 74 days after his death, saying they simply took the ‘words from the actual murderers’
The family’s attorney Lee Merritt, also speaking on the show, called for justice to also be handed to the district attorneys who failed to prosecute the killers.
‘We have to get those DAs out that made a decision not to prosecute the case – we have to go after them,’ he said.
Merritt said it was only through public pressure that the McMichaels had finally faced murder charges this week.
‘The video already existed, it was part of the investigation… it was the public seeing the video and allowing us to add common sense to it and raise our voice and demand these men be arrested’ that led to action against the suspects, he said.
‘We have been asking the DA’s office for this video for months since this happened and we were not given a copy of it,’ he added.
The Brunswick DA’s office has come under fire for its handling of the case.
The first two DA’s recused themselves from the case and the third passed it onto a grand jury before the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) stepped in and took over the investigation – leading to the subsequent arrests of the McMichaels.
Two Glynn County commissioners have claimed that Brunswick DA Jackie Johnson – the first DA on the case – blocked police from arresting the suspects because she was friends with Gregory McMichael.
Gregory McMichael, 64, (left) and his son Travis McMichael, 34, (right) were finally arrested Thursday and charged with murder and aggravated assault for the shooting death of Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia, back in February after footage of the attack leaked online Tuesday and sparked outrage across America
William ‘Roddie’ Bryan (left with his attorney Kevin Gough), a neighbor of Gregory and Travis McMichael, filmed the attack and calls are growing for his prosecution in the case
Officers investigating the scene of the fatal shooting told Johnson’s office they had cause to arrest the father and son at the time but the DA shut them down, they said.
Gregory McMichael had worked as an investigator in Johnson’s office until his retirement in 2019 causing Johnson to recused herself from the case a few days after the shooting.
‘She shut them down to protect her friend McMichael,’ Glynn County Commissioner Allen Booker told The Atlanta Journal Constition.
DailyMail.com reached out to the DA’s office for comment but a representative was not available.
It has also emerged that Gregory, who worked as an investigator in the Brunswick DA’s office, helped prosecute Arbery in the past, Barnhill revealed.
In a letter to Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr recusing himself from the case, Barnhill said his son and Gregory ‘both helped with the previous prosecution of (Ahmaud) Arbery’.
Gregory, who retired from the DA’s office in 2019, had not mentioned his involvement in the case to police.
At a press conference Friday, GBI Director Vic Reynolds said ‘there is more than sufficient probable cause in this case for felony murder.’
Ahmaud Arbery and his mother Wanda Cooper Jones. Bryan may also face arrest for his part in the murder after he watched and shot the footage of the attack, authorities said Friday
Reynolds declined to explicitly criticize local police, but admitted ‘there were things that needed to be done and have been done yesterday.’
‘Considering the fact that we hit the ground running Wednesday morning and within 36 hours we had secured warrants for two individuals for murder – I think that speaks volumes in itself,’ he said.
Reynolds also said the man who filmed the shocking footage may also face arrest in connection to Arbery’s shooting.
William ‘Roddie’ Bryan, a neighbor of Gregory and Travis McMichael, filmed the attack and calls are growing for his prosecution in the case.
Bryan broke his silence Friday saying he followed Arbery because there had been ‘a number of crimes in the neighborhood’ – despite cops saying there were no burglaries reported in the two months leading up to the jogger’s murder.
He was pictured Friday for the first time since his cellphone footage exposing the brutal slaying of the innocent jogger was leaked this week, as his lawyer protested his innocence.
Bryan finally broke his silence over the murder of the black jogger at the hands of the white ex-cop and son, claiming he was only a ‘witness’ and not an accomplice to the shocking attack.
His attorney Kevin Gough denied claims Bryan was armed at the time of the killing and insisted he is ‘not a vigilante’.
Gough also said the shooting simply ‘start[ed] happening in front of him’ and Bryan had handed over the footage to police ‘immediately’ after the incident.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation director Vic Reynolds (pictured center) said authorities are ‘investigating everyone involved in the case including the individual who shot that video’
Gough told Weekend TODAY Bryan had arrived at the scene after he saw Arbery running through the neighborhood and being pursued by the McMichaels in their truck.
‘He was in his yard and this just starts happening in front of him,’ said Gough.
‘He gets in his car and is trying to document that.’
When asked why Bryan followed and filmed the attack, his attorney said ‘he was trying to get [Arbery’s] picture… because there had been a number of crimes in this neighborhood and he didn’t recognize him and a vehicle that he did recognize was following him.’
However, Glynn County Police Lt. Cheri Bashlor confirmed Friday that no burglaries had been reported in the neighborhood in the seven weeks leading up to Arbery’s death.
Bashlor told CNN there had only been one incident reported back on January 1, when someone had stolen a firearm from an unlocked truck outside the McMichaels’ home.
Claims of Bryan’s innocence also contradict a memo from one of the former district attorneys on the case which said Bryan had joined in the pursuit of the innocent jogger.
Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George E. Barnhill said in the memo, obtained by USA Today, that all three men had been in ‘hot pursuit of a burglary suspect’.
Exclusive photos show the moment Gregory McMichael (pictured) and his son Travis McMichael were arrested at their home in Brunswick, Georgia, on Thursday
An officer with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is seen leading 34-year-old Travis McMichael out of the home in handcuffs
The attorney who leaked Bryan’s footage revealed Friday he did it because he believed it would clear the McMichaels of any crime.
Attorney Alan Tucker told Inside Edition Friday that he was a close friend of the two men charged with Arbery’s murder.
‘I really thought releasing the video would put the truth out to the public,’ Tucker stated.
‘If he [Arbery] had just froze and hadn’t done anything, then he wouldn’t have been shot.’
However after the video was uploaded to the internet Tuesday it quickly went viral and sparked nationwide outrage.
The father and son were subsequently arrested Thursday and charged with murder and aggravated assault.
Many Americans are outraged that it has taken more than two months for the assailants to be arrested.
Protesters gathered outside the courthouse in Brunswick Friday – what would have been the victim’s 26th birthday.
A crowd of several hundred people, most wearing masks, sang ‘Happy Birthday’ in his honor outside the Glynn County Courthouse.
President Donald Trump broke his silence over the killing that has shaken America, calling the video showing Arbery’s murder ‘disturbing’.
‘I looked at a picture of that young man. He was in a tuxedo … I will say that that looks like a really good young guy,’ Trump said on Fox & Friends Friday.
‘My heart goes out to the parents and the families and friends,’ he added while stating that he believed Georgia governor Brian Kemp would investigate the matter ‘strongly’.
People react during a rally Friday morning outside the courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia, to protest the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black man what would have been his 26th birthday
Protesters gathered for a march through Brunswick on Tuesday – the same day shocking footage of Arbery’s death went viral
‘[Brian Kemp] is going to do what’s right. It’s a heartbreaking thing. That was very rough, rough stuff.
‘Justice getting done is the thing that solves the [racial problem]. Again, it is in the hands of the governor and I’m sure he’ll do the right thing. It could be something that we didn’t see on tape. If you saw, things went off tape and then back on tape.’
The McMichaels made their first court appearance individually Friday afternoon via a video link from inside the Glynn County jail.
Magistrate Judge Wallace Harrell ruled that bond on both charges would have to be set by a superior court judge. Both men were read their rights and spoke only to confirm their names. Neither had attorneys representing them in court and no further hearing dates were scheduled.
Arbery was shot dead while out jogging on February 23 by the McMichaels.
The killers evaded prosecution for more than two months, after the father and son team initially claimed they thought Arbery was a burglar after a spate of thefts in the area, and that he attacked them when they tried to make a citizen’s arrest.
But shocking cellphone footage – taken by Bryan – was leaked this week, showing the two men chasing and gunning down the victim in the street.
The video showed the men ‘ambushing’ Arbery as he tried to run past their pickup truck.
In the harrowing footage, Arbery is seen running at a jogging pace on the left side of a road.
A truck is parked in the road ahead of him. Gregory is inside the pickup’s bed, while Travis is standing beside the open driver’s side door.
Arbery crosses the road to pass the pickup on the passenger side, then crosses back in front of the truck.
A gunshot sounds, and the video shows Arbery grappling with Travis in the street over what appears to be a shotgun or rifle.
A second shot can be heard, and Arbery can be seen punching Travis. A third shot is fired at point-blank range. Arbery staggers a few feet and falls face down.
The leak of the video sparked outrage across the nation with LeBron James, Justin Bieber and Kendall Jenner all leading cries for the McMichaels to be charged with murder.
The GBI took over the investigation on Tuesday after the video emerged and the McMichaels were finally arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault Thursday.
Arbery can be seen stumbling to the ground as the clip comes to a close
Shocking cellphone video captured the moment the McMichaels confronted Arbery in the street. In the footage Travis is seen engaging in a physical fight with Arbery before shooting him with a shotgun
TIMELINE OF BOTCHED HANDLING OF THE CASE
February 23: Ahmaud Arbery is shot dead in the street in Brunswick, Georgia.
Gregory and Travis McMichael had gone out in their car with guns to chase him because they mistook him for a burglar.
When they caught up to him, Travis got out of the car.
Jackie Johnson recused herself because McMichael used to work in her office
Greg says they told Arbery that they wanted to talk to him and that he attacked Travis. A struggle ensued and Travis fired his gun twice, killing Ahmaud, 25.
Late February – First prosecutor recuses herself
Jackie Johnson, the Brunswick District Attorney, stepped down from the case because Gregory used to work in her office as an investigator.
Mid-April – Second prosecutor says he won’t press charges, then recuses himself
George Barnhill said Ahmaud initiated the fight
George Barnhill was given the case.
He at first said he did not think it merited charges because the McMichaels were acting lawfully by trying to carry out a citizen’s arrest, which is legal in Georgia.
He also said that the video ‘shows’ Arbery reaching for Travis’ gun.
Barnhill recused himself because his son, also called George Barnhill, works in the office where McMichael used to
The first shot is fired however when the pair are out of frame.
When the camera panned back to them, they were struggling again to the side of the vehicle.
Barnhill said Travis was standing his ground by firing three shots which hit Arbery.
He later had to recuse himself after it emerged that his son works in the Brunswick District Attorney’s Office, where Gregory served.
May 5 – Third prosecutor passes it on to grand jury
Tom Durden is the third prosecutor to have the case come across his desk.
He said that his office would approach it without prior prejudice.
This week, he announced that he would not make a decision on whether or not to charge, and that he wants to convene a grand jury to take it on.
May 7 – Georgia Bureau of Investigation files charges
The GBI announced that it was bringing charges of murder and aggravated assault against the Gregory and Travis on May 7.