Gregory and Travis McMichael are charged with felony murder and aggravated assault in the death of Georgia jogger Ahmaud Arbery.
WAYNESBORO, Ga. — Ahmaud Arbery’s mother stood a few feet from his grave Tuesday, choking back tears as she talked about her son.
“He was the baby of the family,” Wanda Cooper Jones said. “He has two older siblings … Ahmaud was humble. Ahmaud was a good boy. To know Ahmaud is to love Ahmaud. Ahmaud didn’t deserve to go the way he went.”
Arbery, a 26-year-old black man, was jogging when he was killed Feb. 23 by two white men in Brunswick, Ga., in an incident that has caused national outrage in what many are calling a hate crime. He was remembered by family members and others at a news conference Tuesday held at the New Springfield Baptist Church cemetery where Arbery is buried.
His aunt, Debby Dixon, wore a T-shirt that said #iRunWithMaud. The movement and the hashtag have spawned viral social media attention. The Facebook page alone has been followed by more than 80,000 people as of Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s wonderful, and the ‘I Run With Maud,’ that comes from his best friend, Akeem Baker,” Dixon said. “He came up with the logo and we’ve been running with Maud ever since.”
The running theme has special significance. Dixon remembered how Arbery liked to run and recalled a specific moment she still cherishes of her nephew who grew up in Brunswick but returned to Burke County during summers to stay with his grandmother, Ella Cooper, and visit other family members. Cooper Jones is from Burke County and New Springfield Baptist is the family’s church.
“He loves to run, he’s a sprinter,” Dixon said. “One day, I saw this guy just running wide open, I was like ‘Who is that?’ I got close and that was him. I was like..‘You want a ride?’ He says ‘No, Aunty.’ He said ‘I’ll be at Grandma’s house before you get there,’ and I was in my car, and by the time I got there and parked, there he was.
Background: Why it took more than 2 months for murder charges and arrests in the death of Ahmaud Arbery
Baker also started a GoFundMe titled ‘I Run With Maud’ on May 3 and all the proceeds are going to Ahmaud’s family. As of Tuesday afternoon, the page had raised $443,286 among 13,600 donors.
“Ahmaud was my best friend so I want to do everything possible to bring honor to his name and make sure justice is served,” Baker said. “Having to grieve and deal with getting justice, are already two major burdens. The goal is to help lighten the load by eliminating the financial burden as much as possible.”
Arbery was shot and killed while jogging through a neighborhood in Brunswick. More than two months after Arbery’s death, Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael were arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault May 7.
Gregory McMichael told police he and his son thought Arbery matched a burglary suspect, so they got in their truck with shotguns and chased him down a residential street. An autopsy report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said he was shot twice in the chest with a third bullet grazing his right wrist.
During the press conference called by state Rep. Gloria Frazier who represents Burke County, she announced plans to request that House Bill 426, which relates to the punishment of hate crimes, be renamed ‘The Ahmaud Arbery Hate Crime Bill.’
“Hate crime can no longer be tolerated in Georgia,” Frazier said. “There will be no more Ahmaud Arbery deaths. We will not tolerate any more of this. We have sat back too long and watched so many of our young black men be murdered down in the street.”
Frazier also called for Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and Senate Judiciary Chairman Jesse Stone, of Waynesboro, to allow the hate crime bill to come to the floor of the senate for a vote when the Georgia General Assembly reconvenes June 11. Georgia Legislative Black Caucus Chair and State Representative Karen Bennett mirrored Frazier’s call in a statement released Tuesday.
“Clearly, the statutes in place are not enough. As a state, we need to be unequivocal in our opposition to racial and other forms of violence. The final passage of HB 426 will be an excellent first step towards sending that message,” Bennett said. “We are asking all Georgians to contact Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jesse Stone to voice your support for passing HB 426, hate crimes legislation. Georgia cannot condone hate of any kind.”
More reading on the Arbery case
New Atlanta prosecutor will ‘ensure justice is done’ in Ahmaud Arbery shooting case, Georgia AG says
White men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery won’t face Georgia hate crime charges. Here’s why.
LeBron James on Ahmaud Arbery video: ‘ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!!!’
Donald Trump calls Ahmaud Arbery’s death ‘a horrible thing’
William Bryan says he has lost his job and received death threats after the video of Ahmaud Arbery’s shooting was made public.
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