Washington – The southern US state of Georgia yesterday repealed its citizen’s arrest law, in a move prompted by the shooting death of African American jogger Ahmaud Arbery by a group of white men who say they thought he was burglar.
Arbery, who would have turned 27 on Saturday, “was the victim of vigilante-style violence that has no place in our country or in our state,” said Governor Brian Kemp as he signed the repeal of the statute.
Georgians will no longer be permitted following the reform to attempt an arrest of someone they believe committed an offense, as they wait for the police.
“Today we are replacing this Civil War-era law, ripe for abuse, with language that balances the safety and right of self-defense to person and property with our shared responsibility to root out injustice and set our state on a better path forward,” the Republican governor said.
Arbery was shot dead in February last year as he was jogging in a residential neighbourhood of Brunswick, a city in the southeastern part of the state.
Three men, who later told police they suspected he was a burglar, chased him before one of the group fatally shot him.
A prosecutor initially given the case concluded that Arbery’s killers were legally armed under Georgia’s open carry law and were within their rights to chase him under the citizen’s arrest statute.
For more than two months, local police made no arrests and it was only when a video of the killing went viral in May that a real investigation was launched.
Gregory McMichael, 65, his 35-year-old son Travis, who fired the shotgun, and William Bryan, 51, who filmed his death, were charged with murder and false imprisonment.
Their trial is due to open on October 18. The men are also being charged with federal hate crimes and attempted kidnapping.
The deaths of Arbery and George Floyd, an African American murdered by a white police officer in Minneapolis in May last year, became emblematic of the “Black Lives Matter” movement against police brutality targeting minorities. ― AFP