Consistency is important, particularly when it comes to due process. So, too, is discussion of self defense rights.

I’ve seen the video of Ahmaud Arbery’s killing (a link to this video is provided for context only, please be advised that a man’s death is shown) and I’ve seen additional video reported to be Arbery stopping by a home construction site and looking around at the framing for a few minutes before leaving empty-handed (and also this security cam footage, which shows nothing, basically). I’ve spoken about this at length on my radio show. This is a great primer on understanding the parts of Georgia law that come into play in this case.

Let’s start at the beginning, the claim that Arbery was a burglar and had given probable cause to Gregory and Travis McMichael for their actions:

The father and son said they thought Arbery matched the appearance of a burglary suspect who they said had been recorded on a surveillance camera some time before.


The two Georgia men who were caught on video shooting the unarmed jogger to death in February claim they were chasing a suspect behind a series of burglaries in the area. But a local police official said the last break-in the neighborhood was reported nearly two months before the shooting.

The last known burglary in the neighborhood happened on Jan. 1, more than seven weeks before the Feb. 23 incident that ended Arbery’s life at the age of 25, Glynn County Police Lt. Cheri Bashlor told CNN on Friday.

This is confirmed by local Georgia media reporting:

In all, there are three: December 8, 2019, more than two months before the jog that’s jolted the country, December 28 and January 1. On Dec. 8th, a Satilla Shores neighbor reported rifles stolen from their unlocked car.
Police records note the incident on the 28th as a “theft.”

On January 1st, a neighbor, Travis James McMichael, filed a report of a firearm stolen from his truck.
That’s the most recent report of a Satilla shores break-in Glynn county leading up to Arbery’s death that police provided FOX5.
It was 53 days after that reported theft, Travis McMichael’s name would show up on another police report as the man who shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery.

The guy who owns the under-construction house that Arbery is on video looking at says that nothing was ever stolen:

Larry English, the man who owns the house under construction, told The Washington Post that the structure was not robbed.
“That’s completely wrong. I’ve never had a police report or anything stolen from my property, or any kind of robbery,” he said.

English also adamantly denies ever using the phrase “burglary” with police.

The 9-1-1- transcript:

Both callers to 911 that day reported seeing Arbery running. The identities of the callers were redacted from the transcript of the 911 call provided to The News.

Arbery had been seen recently on surveillance video in the neighborhood, according to the first caller. Neither call specifies a crime Arbery might have committed.

“There’s a guy in the house right now; it’s under construction,” the man told the dispatcher.

The man then gave her an address.

“And you said someone’s breaking into it right now?” the dispatcher asked.

“No,” the man replied, “it’s all open. It’s under construction … “

The man interrupted to say Arbery was leaving. “And there he goes right now.”

“Ok,” the dispatcher said, “What is he doing?”

“He’s running down the street,” the man said. The next sentence is garbled.

“That’s fine,” the dispatcher said. “I’ll get (police) out there. I just need to know what he was doing wrong. Was he just on the premises and not supposed to be?”

The next sentence is garbled. “And he’s been caught on camera a bunch at night. It’s kind of an ongoing thing. The man building the house has got heart issues. I think he’s not going to finish it.”

“Ok, that’s fine,” the dispatcher said. “And you said he was a male in a black T-shirt?”

“White T-shirt,” the man said. “Black guy, white T-shirt. He’s done run into the neighborhood again.”

The next 911 call from Satilla Shores came in at 1:14 p.m.

“I’m out here at Satilla Shores,” the man said. “There’s a black male running down the street.”

“Where at Satilla Shores?” the dispatcher asked.

“I don’t know what street we’re on,” the man replied.

“Stop!” he can be heard shouting. “Watch that. Stop, damn it! Stop!”

That call went blank for several minutes, with the dispatcher trying several times to reach the caller. The call eventually hangs up.

The McMichaels said that there had been a lot of break-ins in their neighborhood, except that this isn’t confirmed by fact or police reporting. They saw a guy, Ahmaud Arbery, looking around at the entirely open, under-construction house across the street and felt the best way to handle this situation was to pursue him after Arbery left the site. Even if this makes sense, how is this not bad judgment?

At some point during all this, Gregory McMichael was outside at his son’s Satilla Drive home when he saw Arbery running down the street, he told police. He ran inside, armed himself and told his son to grab a gun, Gregory McMichael told police. He said they had seen Arbery on surveillance cameras. The two men got into his son’s pickup truck and caught up to Arbery at Burford Road and Satilla Drive, he told police. After asking Arbery several times to stop, Travis McMichael stepped out of the truck with a shotgun, Gregory McMichael told police.

The video shows Arbery approaching McMichael’s truck (presumably they sped ahead of him and stopped their truck in his path) before Travis McMichael got out of the truck with his shotgun and confronted Arbery.

If the McMichaels’s belief was that Arbery was a burglar based on having seen him enter a construction site that isn’t enough to legitimize their accusation (I’ve been out on walks before and have looked at construction sites, for crying out loud. Who hasn’t?). At best it’s trespassing but with no way to prove intent, the accusation of burglary doesn’t stand.

This is incredibly important:

Georgia does not make it easy for citizens to go around arresting each other. Citizens are entitled to use reasonable force to arrest people who have committed crimes in their presence or immediate knowledge (courts have held that these are synonymous). Here is the statute:
“A private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge. If the offense is a felony and the offender is escaping or attempting to escape, a private person may arrest him upon reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion.”
The most important part of this statute is the unwritten bit — you are allowed to make arrests only with “reasonable force.” You can’t burn down an orphanage to catch one child snatching extra bowls of gruel. And the Georgia Supreme Court has held, as a matter of law, that you can’t chase someone down with a weapon because you think they have committed burglary.

Irresponsibly holding someone under the claim of citizen’s arrest without meeting the litmus test required by law may earn you some sort of unlawful detainment charge.

So there wasn’t any clear evidence tying Arbery to any burglary other than the McMichaels claim that they saw him at a construction site and assumed he was a burglar. Furthermore, there is nothing to justify the McMichaels’s pursuit. I’ve heard from some that there exist videos of Arbery burglarizing other houses, if so, where are they? Why haven’t they been presented to police? Even if these videos exist, that still doesn’t justify the pursuit of someone by others who did not witness the crime of which they’re accusing Arbery. That’s an incredibly important detail in Georgia law as it relates to citizen’s arrests. There was no evidence of Arbery committing a crime on the video necessitating the pursuit and confrontation. Some have argued that Arbery’s previous actions establish the evidence required for the McMichaels’s to suspect Arbery. Coincidentally, the older McMichael was involved in a prior and unspecified investigation of Arbery:

A suspect accused in the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black jogger killed in a Georgia suburb more than two months ago, was involved in a previous prosecution of the 26-year-old man when he worked for the local district attorney’s office.
A suspect accused in the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black jogger killed in a Georgia suburb more than two months ago, was involved in a previous prosecution of the 26-year-old man when he worked for the local district attorney’s office.
According to a report in The Brunswick News, Arbery was indicted for allegedly bringing a gun to a 2013 high school basketball game when he was 19.
Family attorney Lee Merritt has acknowledged Arbery’s 2018 arrest on shoplifting charges, CNN reported. But any reference to “alleged conduct from high school or shoplifting is absurd and has nothing to do with his murder,” Merritt said.

Using these accounts to justify Gregory McMichael’s response to Arbery actually hurts their defense more than helps it. For starters, the argument that the McMichaels knew Arbery or of his record prior to Arbrey’s killing suggests that Gregory McMichael was not forthcoming with police (Arbery is only identified as a black male, according to the 9-1-1 transcript). The past can inform of pattern and help with prediction, but as the saying goes, “close enough only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades,” not in law. I also reject the notion that we retry and/or re-penalize people for past crimes or accusations as a substitute for nonexistent evidence. It betrays due process, something law-abiding gun owners should fear. If you support rule of law, you should reject run-around of rights.

As it is elsewhere in the country, so too is it illegal in Georgia to point the barrel of your gun at someone, loaded or unloaded, without any legal justification. I’ve attended more classes and training on this matter than I can recollect at this point, and have undergone various force-on-force training scenarios where instructors graded class responses based on each state’s self defense laws. If you don’t want to earn yourself a felony charge and get ravaged in court, you better be damn certain when you point the business end of your boom stick at someone.

Some argued that Travis McMichael had the right to use lethal force when Arbery crossed in front of the truck. This argument doesn’t make sense to me. Here’s why: In the video Arbery looked as though he was going to run on the right side of the truck to avoid the driver. When Travis McMichael exited his truck with his shotgun, went around the open driver’s side door to the front of the truck, that’s when Arbery crossed. While the younger McMichael and his shotgun are out of frame at this point, I can only extrapolate on this from the perspective of placing myself in Arbey’s situation at that moment: If I’m running, walking, whatever, and I see two men (with one standing in the back of the truck like he’s in a parade) who followed me and then pulled into my oncoming path while demanding I stop to talk with them, and one comes out with a shotgun? I’m going to fear for my safety. If one points the barrel at me you’re damn right I’m going to go for control of that barrel because there is no way on foot I’m going to outrun two guys in a truck. I’m amazed that some think Arbery should have extended the benefit of the doubt to the McMichaels when the McMichaels did not extend that courtesy to Arbery. And no — private citizens do not have the right to stop the actions or movement of other private citizens and if someone in a vehicle demands you stop to talk to them you are under zero obligation — legal or otherwise — to do so. Besides, doing so would violate every single “stranger danger” lesson I ever learned in school.

Those who say that the McMichaels have their right of armed self defense apparently don’t realize that it can also be viewed that Arbery also had his right of self defense and I’m pretty sure felt as though his life was in danger the moment Travis McMichael stopped his truck in the road and got out to confront him with his shotgun.

George Barnhill, the DA who recused himself, as he reportedly knew of Gregory McMichael through his son, and did not do so quietly.  Barnhill’s letter seems petulant and entirely opinionated and I vehemently disagree with his logic. If there was “first hand probable cause” for the McMichaels to pursue and shoot Arbery, I wonder why this important information hasn’t been presented in the over two months since the killing? Open carry is legal but woe to anyone who conflates open carry with Travis McMichael using his truck to block a guy’s path before jumping out of the cab to confront someone and create a dangerous and irresponsible situation. Barnhill seems to think that Arbery defending himself is a criminal act worthy of deadly force and suggests that it was Arbery, not McMichael, who created the dangerous situation.

I think the McMichaels should be tried in a court of law and receive the due process they, by all appearances, denied Arbery. I strongly and consistently dislike mob rule, rage mobs, mob-anything that makes decisions about lives and rights. I also strongly and consistently support due process, which is why this case needs to go to trial. People who oppose the theft of due process via proposals like “red flag laws” should stringently speak out in cases where due process is denied and justice unserved.

Based on the video, I don’t think this case looks well for the McMichaels. If I’m wrong, I’m more than happy to accept and acknowledge evidence showing such as this is about truth, not ego — a distinction about which some need a reminder.

There are two things this case emphatically is not: An open carry or a stand your ground defense. These are specious arguments.

Open carry has nothing to do with chasing down a dude in your truck, blocking his path, and getting out to confront him. Stand your ground hasn’t been mentioned by anyone in this case nor has it been entered as a defense. Do not allow people to subvert rights with bad arguments defending bad actions caught on tape.

Lastly, just because progressive grievance hustlers with questionable track records share this video or think that what happened is wrong, doesn’t immediately mean the opposite is true. As I wrote in my recent book, Grace Canceled, we have been conditioned into these polarized, binary tribal mindsets. Sometimes, opinions will align. Who agrees or disagrees with you isn’t a measure of accuracy, the truth is the measure. Facts are the measure. I reject this Borg-esque, groupthink mentality and so should you.