SAVANNAH, GA. (AP) — When white men armed with guns pursued and killed Ahmaud Arbery as he ran through their neighborhood, few outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick paid notice in the days and weeks that followed.
A year later, those closest to the 25-year-old Black man want to make sure his death isn’t overlooked again as three men await trial in Arbery’s slaying Feb. 23, 2020.
A memorial procession led by Arbery’s family was planned for Tuesday evening through the Satilla Shores subdivision, where he fell bleeding in the street from three close-range shotgun blasts. Organizers asked supporters outside Brunswick to participate in a virtual 2.23-mile (3.59-kilometer) run in memory of Arbery, an avid runner whose family says he was jogging when he got killed.
It's important to remind people of the origins, when it all started,” said Jason Vaughn, Arbery’s high school football coach and an organizer of the anniversary events. “For a long time, it was like we were yelling into the dark, and nobody was listening.”
Immediately after the shooting, police interviewed Arbery’s killer and two others involved in the chase and let them walk free. The first prosecutor assigned to the case saw no reason to bring charges. Pleas for justice by Arbery’s family went largely unheard as Georgia and the nation entered lockdown as a the coronavirus pandemic took hold.
Arbery had been dead for more than two months when a national outcry erupted after cellphone video of the shooting leaked online May 5. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case the next day and quickly arrested the shooter, Travis McMichael, his father, Greg McMichael, and neighbor Roddie Bryan on murder charges.
Outrage over Arbery’s slaying still simmered when a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd on May 25, igniting protests across the U.S. denouncing racial injustice.
In Brunswick, the death of Arbery served as a wake-up call to many residents, both Black and white, that they needed to be more active in holding elected officials accountable, said the Rev. John Perry. He served as president of the Brunswick NAACP chapter at the time of the killing. Now he’s running to be the city’s next mayor.
“Previously, we elected people into office and just trusted that they would do the right thing,” Perry said. “The failure to carry out justice in the Ahmaud situation said we needed to do more as citizens.”