Filed on the one-year anniversary of Arbery’s death, the lawsuit claims local police and two prosecutors tried to cover up the fatal shooting of her 25-year-old son by their three co-defendants.
ATLANTA (CN) — The mother of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old Black man who was chased and shot by three white men while jogging in Georgia, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Tuesday against the men and several officials involved in the investigation and alleged cover-up.
“For nearly three months, Glynn County police officers, the chief of police, and two prosecutors conspired to hide the circumstances surrounding Ahmaud’s death and to protect the men who murdered him,” according to the complaint filed in Brunswick, Georgia, federal court.
Seeking $1 million in damages, Wanda Cooper named William “Roddie” Bryan, Travis McMichael and his father, retired police investigator Gregory McMichael, as defendants. The three men are currently in prison and awaiting trial on felony murder charges for Arbery’s death.
Bryan and the McMichaels chased Arbery through a coastal Georgia neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020, claiming later that they believed he had committed a burglary. After a struggle between an unarmed Arbery and Travis McMichael, who was carrying a shotgun, Arbery was shot three times and killed.
According to the lawsuit, Cooper believes the men pursued Arbery solely because he was a Black man.
Two Glynn County police offices and two local prosecutors are also named as defendants and accused of participating in an alleged cover-up to “deprive Ahmaud Arbery of equal protection of the law and his rights by racial bias, animus, discrimination.”
The complaint alleges that Glynn County police effectively deputized Bryan and the McMichaels to “act as law enforcement officers” when they allowed the men to respond to instances of trespassing at a neighborhood construction site.
The complaint states that the McMichaels and Bryan believed they were “were acting under color of law when they tracked, shot and killed Ahmaud.”
Cooper alleges that the cover-up began as soon as police arrived at the scene of the shooting and continued after they decided not to arrest the trio despite the existence of video evidence of the shooting created by Bryan.
It was only after the video leaked to the public in May that any arrests were made.
The lawsuit claims that Gregory McMichael’s former boss, prosecutor Jackie Johnson, intervened to advise police not to press charges.
Cooper also claims that the police gave her false information about her son’s murder, telling her that Arbery had been involved in a burglary and had been confronted and killed by the homeowner.
“If not for the video of Ahmaud’s killing being released, the Glynn County Police Department, [Officer Robert] Rash, Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, Bryan, Johnson, and [prosecutor George] Barnhill would have successfully conspired to deprive Ahmaud of his constitutional rights,” the complaint concludes.
Cooper is represented by attorneys from McEldrew, Young, Purtell & Merritt and Reed Smith.