Mural of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia. (Wikimedia/Bubba73)

The handling of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder demands accountability

Federal charges in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery are not enough. What happened to the state officials under investigation for covering it up?
Mural of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia. (Wikimedia/Bubba73)

The following statement was issued by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the FOR Atlanta/Georgia chapter, and the Center for Jubilee, Reconciliation, and Healing, Inc.

Federal charges are, we agree with Wanda Cooper-Jones, mother of Ahmaud Arbery, “one step closer to justice for Ahmaud.” But those indictments, announced on April 28 in the Southern District of Georgia, are not enough. What happened to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and federal investigations into the state officials who allegedly covered up the murder of Mr. Arbery?

From the outset, Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson apparently acknowledged that she had a conflict of interest. Nonetheless, instead of fully recusing herself, the Brunswick District Attorney apparently put Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill on the case — even though the Waycross District Attorney had a similar conflict of interest. And the Georgia Attorney General’s Office followed suit by appointing the Waycross District Attorney.

  • Why did the Brunswick District Attorney stay involved, and why was she allowed to stay involved, in the case even though she had a conflict?
  • Why was the Brunswick District Attorney allowed, despite her own conflict, to choose the Waycross District Attorney, also conflicted, as the next district attorney who would handle the case for the State of Georgia?
  • Why did the Georgia Attorney General’s Office compound these problems by appointing the Waycross District Attorney — even though the choice had been made by a conflicted Brunswick District Attorney and even though the Waycross District Attorney was himself conflicted out?
  • Why were these two District Attorneys allowed, despite the multiple conflicts, to handle the case for some 50 days (before a third prosecutor was put on the case)? Why were these conflicted officials allowed to handle, and to allegedly suppress, the case even though apparently in possession, from early April 2020, of the video that would finally force the State of Georgia to take action? And even though, all along, Wanda Cooper-Jones was urging, to no avail, that this was improper?

The conduct of these officials has been under investigation by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia and by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation since May 2020. But no findings have been made public. Once again, it has been left to Wanda Cooper-Jones to take action to hold Georgia officials accountable by bringing a private lawsuit concerning the alleged cover-up.

But the burden should not be on Ms. Cooper-Jones. We demand that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia, together with the United States Justice Department, wrap up these investigations forthwith and tell us what they know.

This story was produced by Fellowship of Reconciliation


As an interfaith organization, FOR-USA's mission is to organize, train, and grow a diverse movement that welcomes all people of conscience to end structures of violence and war, and create peace through the transformative power of nonviolence.

Waging Nonviolence partners with other organizations and publishes their work.