Man who recorded Ahmaud Arbery shooting charged with felony murder

William Bryan made an unsuccessful attempt to block Arbery before he was killed, an initial police report says

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published May 22, 2020 11:41AM (EDT)

Ahmaud Arbery (I RUN WITH MAUD/Facebook)
Ahmaud Arbery (I RUN WITH MAUD/Facebook)

The Georgia man who filmed the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery was charged with felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced Thursday.

William Bryan made an unsuccessful attempt to block Arbery before he was killed, an initial police report said. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has called the murder a "lynching."

Arbery, 25, was fatally shot while jogging near his home in Brunswick on Feb. 23. No arrests were made in the case until a video recorded by Bryan was released to the media earlier this month. Police soon arrested former police officer Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis, 34.

The pair said they followed Arbery in their truck, because they believed he was a suspect in a string of burglaries. A witness later told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the McMichaels confronted Arbery at a construction site days before the shooting.

Travis McMichael, who can be seen in the video with a shotgun, was charged with murder and aggravated assault. Gregory McMichael, who was involved in a previous prosecution of Arbery, was charged with party to murder and aggravated assault.

Bryan, a neighbor of the McMichaels, saw the pursuit and followed in his own vehicle, The New York Times reported. When Arbery tried to evade the McMichaels' pickup truck, Bryan tried to block him, Gregory McMichael told police after the shooting. Arbery was able to evade Bryan's car, and both vehicles continued to pursue him until he was physically confronted. 

Gregory McMichael, who was listed as a witness in the initial police report, told officers he believed that Arbery was a burglary suspect and claimed that he had "violently" attacked his son and fought "over the shotgun" before he was shot.

Bryan told local news outlet WJAX that he had "nothing to do" with the murder.

"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," he said. "I was told I was a witness, and I'm not sure what I am, other than receiving a bunch of threats."

"My client was responding to what he saw, which was someone in the community he didn't know being followed by a vehicle he recognized," Bryan's attorney told the outlet. "Without going into details about the level of crime in this community in this subdivision, I think most people in this subdivision were aware that there were issues."

Attorneys for the Arbery family said they were "relieved" that Bryan was charged after calling for his arrest for weeks.

"The family of Ahmaud Arbery was relieved to learn that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has taken William 'Roddie' Bryan into custody," the lawyers said in a statement. "We called for his arrest from the very beginning of this process. 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."

Bryan told WJAX that he would tell the family that he is "very, very sorry for your loss." He said in another interview with CNN that "if there wasn't a tape, then we wouldn't know what happened. I hope that it, in the end, brings justice to the family and peace to the family."

S. Lee Merritt, an attorney for the Arbery family, rejected the argument.

"The initial police report described his role in it," Merritt told CNN. "The idea that he was just a witness, recording the video — that's a recent invention. His role in this ambush was well documented in the original police report and is demonstrated by video."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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Aggregate Ahmaud Arbery Gregory Mcmichael Keisha Lance Bottoms Politics Travis Mcmichael William Bryan