SAVANNAH, Ga (AP) — The Georgia man whose cellphone video of Ahmaud Arbery’s fatal shooting helped reignite the case was charged with murder on Thursday, making him the third person arrested more than two months after the slaying.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) said 50-year-old William “Roddie” Bryan Jr was arrested on charges of felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. No other details were given.
The GBI said in a statement that it would hold a news conference yesterday morning.
Arbery was slain February 23 when a white father and son armed themselves and pursued him after spotting the 25-year-old black man running in their neighbourhood.
More than two months passed before authorities arrested Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son, Travis McMichael, 34, on charges of felony murder and aggravated assault. Gregory McMichael told police he suspected Arbery was a burglar and that Arbery attacked his son before being shot.
Bryan lives in the same subdivision just outside the port city of Brunswick, and the video he took from the cab of his vehicle helped stir a national outcry when it leaked online on May 5.
The video quickly drew a strong reaction from Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican who called it “absolutely horrific”. The GBI soon took over the case from local police, and the arrests of the McMichaels followed on May 7.
Under Georgia law, a person can be charged with felony murder for committing any felony that causes the death of someone else. It does not require intent to kill and carries an automatic life sentence.
In the Glynn County police incident report on the shooting, Gregory McMichael told an officer that at one point Arbery “began running back the direction from which he came and `Roddie’ attempted to block him which was unsuccessful”. It’s the only mention in the police report of any potential involvement by Bryan.
Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, did not immediately return a phone message Thursday. He has previously insisted Bryan played no role in Arbery’s death.
“Roddie Bryan is not now, and has never been, more than a witness to the shooting,” Gough said in a statement on the case Monday. “He is not a vigilante. Roddie did not participate in the horrific killing of this young man. Mr Bryan has committed no crime, and bears no criminal responsibility in the death of Ahmaud Arbery.”
Meanwhile, attorneys for Arbery’s parents cheered the news of Bryan’s arrest.
“We called for his arrest from the very beginning of this process,” attorneys S Lee Merritt, Benjamin Crump and L Chris Stewart said in a statement. “His involvement in the murder of Mr Arbery was obvious to us, to many around the country and after their thorough investigation, it was clear to the GBI as well.”