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Lawyer Lee Merritt said U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine, whose jurisdiction included southern Georgia, met with him and Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, last Thursday and told them that officials were investigating potential misconduct by local officials. “They wanted us to know they had already been involved in the investigation,” Merritt said.
Barry Paschal, a spokesman for Christine, declined to say whether the meeting had happened. “Our office does not discuss active investigations, including addressing whether or not those investigations exist,” Paschal said.
The Arbery family attorneys added that there was an active hate-crime investigation, despite the fact that Georgia is one of four states without a hate-crime law on the books. The attorneys said the DOJ told them it had received many emails and social media posts from former classmates and other people who knew suspects Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis, over the years suggesting a history of “hateful” statements. The McMichaels, who are white, were arrested earlier this month on charges of felony murder and assault, two months after the shooting that killed Arbery, who was black.
The DOJ has not confirmed the hate-crime investigation.
“According to Mr. Christine, his office is investigating why it took so long to arrest the individuals responsible for Mr. Arbery’s death,” Merritt, Benjamin Crump and Chris Stewart, attorneys for Arbery’s mother and father, said in a statement. “This would involve the consideration of both civil and criminal charges against state officials and other conspirators involved in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.”
The attorney said they left that meeting “satisfied” the DOJ would fully investigate the players involved in the killing.
Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was shot and killed while jogging in his neighborhood of Brunswick on February 23. The McMichaels and a third man, who recorded the shooting, have since been arrested on charges including murder, after videos of the killing circulated on social media.
Brunswick Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson has defended her office’s handling of the case. The elder McMichael worked for her as an investigator before retiring last year, requiring her office to step away from the case. She handed the case to Waycross Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill.
Barnhill recused himself, writing a letter explaining that he thought the McMichaels were justified in their attempts to hold Arbery until police arrived and their actions were “perfectly legal.”
Fox News’ Kathleen Reuschle and The Associated Press contributed to this report.