The Department of Justice is investigating the death of Ahmaud Arbery as a possible hate crime after the man was shot and killed while jogging in Georgia earlier this year, according to multiple reports.
An attorney for Arbery’s family first told CBS News that the Justice Department would launch a federal hate crime investigation and look into why local officials took more than two months to file charges in the case.
The move comes amid nationwide outrage over the shooting death. Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was confronted by two white men while he was jogging in a coastal South Georgia neighborhood in late February. The pair, Gregory and Travis McMichael, said they believed he was a burglar before they confronted him with guns. Travis McMichael shot Arbery three times during a confrontation, killing him.
No one was arrested, however, until a graphic video of the encounter was released earlier this month.
Attorneys for Arbery’s family said Monday they had met last week with Bobby Christine, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, noting that officials at the DOJ would investigate why it took months for charges to be filed. The lawyers also said the Justice Department was weighing civil and criminal charges against state officials.
“[Christine’s] office is investigating why it took so long to arrest the individuals responsible for Mr. Arbery’s death,” the Arberys’ attorneys said in a statement Monday. “This would involve the consideration of both civil and criminal charges against state officials and other conspirators involved in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.”
They added: “We left that meeting feeling satisfied that the DOJ would do their part to fully investigate all players involved in this murder and that they would hold those responsible accountable.”
The Justice Department said earlier this month that it was weighing federal hate crime charges to determine if they were “appropriate” following the arrest of the men in Georgia. A third man who filmed the encounter was arrested last week on charges of felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
Georgia does not have state-level hate crime statutes, but the DOJ is able to file federal charges in certain cases.