GLYNN COUNTY, GA.- There has been a lot of publicity surrounding the case of Ahmaud Arbery, the man who was shot dead by two men in Georgia in February.
According to some, Arbery was jogging through the neighborhood and was chased down and killed by the two men, Gregory and Travis McMichael. Arbery was unarmed at the time of the shooting.
Video has come to light showing that police had an encounter with Arbery in November, 2017, according to the Guardian, while he was sitting alone in his car in a park one morning. The information was relative to a records request and a police video obtained by the Guardian.
At the time the incident occurred, a prosecutor wrote a detailed memo explaining why the killing was legally justified. Later on, the prosecutor, George Barnhill recused himself from the case because it was discovered that his son had worked with Gregory McMichael in the district attorney’s office, while also learning that they had worked on a previous case Arbery was involved in.
In the video uncovered by the Guardian, an officer on patrol in the area suspected Arbery of using marijuana, because the park in which he was parked is known for drug activity.
During the encounter with police, Arbery, who was wearing a hat, winter coat and athletic pants refused to let the officer search his car, after denying he had marijuana on him. The outfit seemed strange because in the video, the officer is in short sleeves with no coat.
Arbery told the officer that he was just in his car relaxing and was “rapping” in his car since he had the day off from work.
At this point, Kanago patted him down for weapons and said:
“I’m not searching you. I’m checking you for weapons. You don’t have any warrants.”
This incident which was previously reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution began to escalate as Arbery asked the officer, identified as Michael Kanago, why he was harassing him. Kanago said that due to Arbery’s aggressive behavior, he began to feel threatened by him.
He wrote in his report that “veins were popping from [Arbery’s] chest, which made me feel that he was becoming enraged and may turn physically violent towards me.” It was at this point that Kanago requested backup from a second officer.
“You’re bothering me for nothing,” Arbery said to Kanago, as seen on body camera footage. Kanago told him that he was looking for criminal activity, at which point Arbery said, “criminal activity? I’m in a fucking park. I work!”
Body camera video shoed Arbery shouting at Kanago, “You hit me with that shit, bitch, you gonna be fucked up!”
At about this time, the second officer arrived on scene, and screamed at Arbery to remove his hands from his pockets, which Arbery complied with.
At this point the second officer, David Haney attempted to deploy his Taser against Arbery, however it malfunctioned, according to Kanago’s report. Arbery did comply with commands to get on the ground. Kanago had already patted Arbery down for weapons before Haney arrived, and believed him to be unarmed.
“I get one day off a week…I’m up early in the morning trying to chill,” Arbery said to the officers as he sat on the ground. “I’m just so aggravated because I work hard, six days a week.”
At the end of the incident, Arbery was allowed to leave, however he was not allowed to drive because his license was suspended. The incident ended about eight minutes after it began.
When asked about the video by the Guardian, lawyers working for the family said that the video proved that a situation existed which was “a situation where Ahmaud was harassed by Glynn county police officers.”
The lawyers questioned the use of the Taser in that incident, saying that there was “no justifiable reason” for Arbery to have been threatened with the use of a Taser. “This appears to be just a glimpse into the kind of scrutiny Ahmaud Arbery faced not only by this police department, but ultimately regular citizens like the McMichaels and their posse, pretending to be police officers.”
“The same reason Ahmaud Arbery was killed was the same reason he was stopped in that park. It was criminalization of blackness itself,” said family attorney S. Lee Merritt at a news conference.
“They saw a black man alone in the park and said, ‘You know what, this appears suspicious.’”
Arbery did have a criminal record, having been placed on probation in 2013 for carrying a gun at a high school basketball game. He was arrested for shoplifting in 2018, along with violation of probation, according to the Journal-Constitution. The family’s attorneys say that previous charges have no bearing on his killing.
According to ABC News, two law enforcement experts reviewed the video for The Associated Press. They noted “no blatant abuses by the officers.” They reasoned that the use of the Taser may have been seen as necessary due to Arbery’s aggressive behavior, although the expert, Nirej Sekhon, a Georgia state University Law professor who studies policing, said his anger might be understandable.
“He’s there in the park, and if we take him at his word—and there’s no reason not to—he’s trying to have a moment to himself and being questioned by the police is aggravating,” Sekhon said.
Likewise, Maria Haberfield, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, noted that she would have preferred to see the officers display a more “calm and collected” presence, however said “they acted by the book.”
The Glynn County police department has already been rocked by scandal, and in fact was facing pressure to disband even before the shooting of Arbery due to a series of corruption scandals that had rocked the department recently. In fact, the move to disband the department has arisen again in the wake of the Arbery incident, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in southeastern Georgia is fueling calls to disband the Glynn County Police Department https://t.co/79ZUikEhmH
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) May 16, 2020
Back in March, the chief of police and three high ranking officers were indicted on perjury charges. That came about relative to allegations they ignored evidence that one of the department’s officers was involved with a local drug dealer.
In 2019, the department was forced to disband a special narcotics unit after an investigator was discovered to have had sex with two confidential informants. Apparently, the incident first came to light in 2017, however the department didn’t look into it. In 2018, the department lost its certifications from both the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, as well as the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement (CALEA).
This past Monday, an outside judge was brought in to preside over the trial of the two McMichaels, one a retired law enforcement officer.
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