A Georgia prosecutor who recused himself from the Ahmaud Arbery case waited to bow out until after he told cops the killing was “justifiable homicide” — and sent them a five-point letter outlining why the suspects should not be charged, according to reports.
District Attorney George Barnhill told police after the Feb. 23 fatal shooting that there was insufficient evidence to charge the two white men, Gregory McMichael, 64, and his 34-year-old son, Travis McMichael, after they chased down Arbery and gunned him down with a shotgun, according to a statement released Saturday by the Glynn County Police Department.
“Detectives met with DA George Barnhill Sr. of the Waycross Judicial Circuit the following day and reviewed their findings with him,” said the statement, published Saturday by The Brunswick News. “DA Barnhill, Sr., advised the detectives before noon on Feb. 24, that the act was justifiable homicide and for detectives to continue their investigation and provide him with lab reports and any additional information.”
Barnhill recused himself from the investigation on April 6, because former cop Gregory McMichael was also a retired investigator in his office — but not until after he received the autopsy report on Arbery’s death and wrote a letter to police explaining why the McMichaels should not be charged, the report said.
“In this letter, DA Barnhill, Sr., notes, ‘I appreciate there is immediate pressure on your department as to the issue of arrest,’” the statement said. “DA Barnhill, Sr.’s letter makes five points regarding the case and concludes that there was insufficient probable cause to issue arrest warrants at that time.”
The case was later turned over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, a state agency, after cellphone video of Arbery’s fatal shooting went public, prompting Gregory and Travis McMichael’s arrests last week on murder charges.
The video of the shooting shows the McMichaels block Arbery’s path as he jogs. Travis McMichael then gets out of the truck with a shotgun and the two men struggle. Arbery is shot during the struggle, stumbles off, and drops to the ground mortally wounded.
According to the Glynn County police account, officers had received two calls, including a 911 call from Gregory McMichael.
Officers arrived at the scene at 1:45 p.m. and took the McGregorys in for questioning. At 3:30 p.m., police sought the advice of the Brunswick District Attorney’s Office which launched an investigation but determined the two white men were not a flight risk and released them.
Glynn police conceded they did not deem it necessary to transfer the case to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation at that point because none of the officers involved were on the force between 1982 and 1989, when Gregory McMichael was with the department.
On Saturday, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said he would probe the handling of the case.