In initial reports, Gregory McMichael, who, along with his son Travis McMichael is accused in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, was said to have retired last year from his job as an investigator for the county District Attorney. However, personnel records show that he lost his certification in February 2019 — after years of failures to complete mandatory training. These include firearms training, and use-of-force instruction.
McMichael and his son can be seen in a viral video, waiting at their pickup truck, armed, as 25-year-old Arbery jogs up to the area. The younger man is standing by the driver’s side door of his truck, holding a rifle. Arbery can be seen to cut around by the passenger side of the truck, away from the gunman, before the camera angle twists off the scene momentarily. When the video returns to the men, Arbery and Travis are both coming into the frame from the passenger side of the truck, indicating that Travis has, in those moments, moved that way from his previous position. The two are struggling over the weapon. Three gunshots are heard, the jogger falls, and the senior McMichael leaves his position in the bed of the truck and approaches his son and the body.
The McMichaels have said that they acted in self-defense, and that they thought Arbery was a burglary suspect. A video released after the killing shows a man said to be Arbery moving around on a construction site, apparently looking at the framing of a partially-completed home. However, WSBTV reports that the owner of the property didn’t even know the young man had been on his property until after the incident, and that there’s no sign anything was stolen.
The McMichaels have expressed that they intended to make a citizen’s arrest, and that they called to Ahmaud and told him they only wanted to ask questions, confronting him only after he refused to stop for the two armed men. As an officer of the law, however, Gregory McMichael’s power to arrest had already been stripped from him. According to Washington Post, McMichael had warnings from as far back as 2005 for failing to attend mandatory courses, including those on firearms and use-of-force.
In February 2019, four months before McMichael retired, he signed a document relating to his failures to attend required training. In it, he recognizes that he should not “engage in any activity” of law enforcement, including carrying a weapon.
To that end, Mr. McMichael will not carry a firearm or badge, nor will he operate any vehicle in the motor pool outfitted with lights, siren or police radio equipment.
The suspension of his credentials last year isn’t the first time that McMichael has been stripped of his power to arrest, either — he also temporarily lost that power in 2006, as a sanction for some infraction that has been kept off his record. His record also notes at least three times he failed to complete required training in use-of-force and firearms, and at least five years total in which he skipped required courses.
McMichael’s case has been moved to a different jurisdiction after prosecutors who had working relationships with him during his career were forced to recuse themselves for conflict of interest. The office of one of these prosecutors, Jackie Johnson, purportedly told police to avoid arresting McMichael and his son after the shooting. Though Johnson denies this, two county commissioners maintain it as fact. The other prosecutor who recused himself from McMichael’s case, George Barnhill, has written a letter defending the McMichaels and supporting their legal defense of citizens’ arrest and self-defense.
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Steph Bazzle reports on social issues and religion for Hill Reporter. She focuses on stories that speak to everyone's right to practice what they believe in and receive the support of their communities and government officials. You can reach her at Steph@HillReporter.com