S. Lee Merritt, an attorney for the family of Ahmaud Arbery, told CNN on Monday that the US Department of Justice is investigating the shooting death as a hate crime.
Merritt said he learned about the development after meeting with United States Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia Bobby Christine on Thursday.
A spokesman for Christine’s office declined to comment.
“Our office does not discuss active investigations, including addressing whether those investigations are or are not taking place,” Barry L. Paschal said in a statement to CNN.
Arbery, who was black, was jogging outside Brunswick, Georgia, on February 23 when Gregory McMichael and his son, who are white, chased him after him, authorities said. Arbery and Travis McMichael struggled over the latter’s shotgun and Arbery was shot three times. Gregory McMichael told police Arbery attacked his son, a police report says.
The killing sparked outrage across a nation after a disturbing video of the shooting emerged online on May 5. “Jogging while black” became the latest example of the many perils visited on African Americans.
Arbery’s family said he was jogging through the neighborhood. Video shows him stopping by a house under construction, a home near the McMichaels. According to a Glynn County Police report, Gregory McMichael later told officers that he thought Arbery looked like a person whom they suspected in a series of recent break-ins in the area.
Earlier this month, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr requested the Department of Justice investigate the handling of this case.
A Department of Justice spokesperson confirmed earlier this month that the Civil Rights Division of the department was assessing the evidence in the case to determine whether federal hate crime charges were appropriate.
Gregory and Travis McMichael were arrested May 7 for the shooting death of Arbery. They face state charges of felony murder and aggravated assault.
William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., the man who recorded the fatal shooting of Arbery, was arrested last week on charges including felony murder.
They have not been asked by a judge to plea. Attorneys for the men have told reporters they committed no crimes.
Georgia is one of a handful of states that does not have a hate crime statute.