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Federal prosecutors to consider hate crime charges in shooting of Ahmaud Arbery

Georgia has no hate crime law allowing charges at the state level.

THE US JUSTICE Department has said federal prosecutors are weighing possible hate crime charges in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man gunned down after being pursued by two armed white men in Georgia.

Arbery was shot on 23 February by a father and son who told police they chased him because they believed he was a burglar.

They were arrested last week, more than two months later, on charges of felony murder and aggravated assault after a video of the shooting appeared online.

Lawyers for Arbery’s parents and others, including Georgia attorney general Chris Carr and the Southern Poverty Law Centre, have asked for a federal investigation. Georgia has no hate crime law allowing charges at the state level.

“We are assessing all of the evidence to determine whether federal hate crimes charges are appropriate,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement.

A Justice Department spokesman had previously said the FBI was assisting the investigation and the department would assist if a federal crime was uncovered.

Kupec’s statement on Monday also said the Justice Department was considering Carr’s request for federal authorities to investigate how local police and prosecutors handled the case.

She said Carr has been asked to “forward to federal authorities any information that he has”.

Gregory McMichael, 64, and his 34-year-old son, Travis McMichael, are jailed on charges of felony murder and aggravated assault.

georgia-chase-deadly-shooting Gregory McMichael (L) and Travis McMichael (R) AP / PA Images AP / PA Images / PA Images

The older man is a former Glynn County police officer who later worked for 20 years as an investigator for the local district attorney’s office. He retired a year ago.

The two men told police they thought Mr Arbery matched the appearance of a burglary suspect who they said had been recorded on a surveillance camera some time before, according to the Glynn County police report filed after the shooting.

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, has said she thinks her 25-year-old son, a former high school American football player, was just jogging in the neighbourhood before he was killed.

A man identifying himself as the person who recorded the video of the shooting said he has received death threats.

William “Roddie” Bryan is identified as a witness in the police report taken after the shooting. He appears to be mentioned in a single sentence of the report, which says Gregory McMichael told an officer that “Roddy attempted to block (Arbery) which was unsuccessful”.

“I had nothing to do with it. I’m trying to get my life back to normal, and it’s been smeared for the last week,” Bryan told WJAX-TV. “I was told I was a witness and I’m not sure what I am, other than receiving a bunch of threats.”

He has not been charged. The TV station reported he would not discuss his involvement in the events that led to Arbery’s death.

Outside prosecutors were appointed to handle the case, but the McMichaels were not arrested until last week.

After video of the shooting leaked online last Tuesday, the lead prosecutor on the case asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into the shooting, and the McMichaels were arrested Thursday.

The leaked video shows a black man running at a jogging pace. A truck is stopped in the road ahead of him, with one white man standing in the pickup’s bed and another beside the open driver’s door.

The running man attempts to pass the pickup on the passenger side, moving just beyond the truck, briefly outside the camera’s view. A gunshot sounds, and the video shows the running man grappling with a man over what appears to be a shotgun or rifle.

A second shot can be heard, and the running man can be seen punching the other man. A third shot is fired at point-blank range, then the running man staggers a few feet and falls face down.

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