The recent case of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia has once again raised the specter of a fractured society in America. In recent days, there has been much vituperation surrounding this case coming from all sides of the issue. So, what exactly happened, and what exactly did not happen? I have been trained to examine what you don’t say more so than what you do say. When looking at this case from that perspective, this ugly episode becomes far more problematic. Read on.
At the onset I will begin by saying that all any of us are getting is what the news media are feeding us surrounding this case. It may be accurate; it may not be accurate. In short form, it appears that Mr. Arbery was out jogging on February 23, 2020. He was identified, allegedly, by Gregory and Travis McMichael as being a suspect…. Excuse me, a person of interest in the era of politically correct language… in a string of burglaries. When the two men saw Arbery, they gave pursuit at which time an altercation occurred. As with every facet of life in 2020, the incident was caught on video. It shows Mr. Arbery running past the passenger side of a pickup truck in the middle of the road. A male armed with a pistol is standing in the bed of the truck. The video then shows that Arbery appears in front of the truck and is engaged by a male with a shotgun. A wrestling match commences, at which time Arbery is shot. He would eventually succumb to his injuries.
For those of you who follow my work, I present these facts of the case as they appear. I have not ever made snap judgments on guilt or innocence of anyone in any case, and that will not change. I say this because today my focus on this case has nothing to do with the culpability of the perpetrators or their character. My focus has nothing to do with the tragedy of a life cut short without due process. My focus here is on a festering boil in American society that to the horror of millions, may prove to be a powder keg with the fuse lit.
There are three issues in this case that disturb me, and having worked in the court system for nine years, there isn’t a great deal that disturbs me. I would ask you, the reader, to take a view of this from 30,000 feet. Indeed, we all suffer in our own way when we witness injustice. But what is occurring now is a symptom of a disease that is eventually going to kill us all unless we face some painful facts about ourselves. All of us, and that includes every one of you in the criminal justice system.
I’ll begin by throwing copious amounts of mud on people I know personally on social media that actively work day in and day out in law enforcement. You’ve encountered them. The domestic Rambo types who are the purveyors of judgment on right and wrong when it comes to the evils that men do in society. That is, until it involves one of them.
“Let’s wait for all the facts.”
How many times have you ever read this on Facebook when it shows somebody being throttled by a police officer with little to no explanation as to what is happening? More often than not, you’ll see in the narrative or in the comments section the aforementioned phrase: Let’s wait for all the facts. Over the past couple of days, I have seen more than one active officer calling for proper justice to be served, and for the perpetrators to be held accountable. File this one in the files of Doctor Obvious. There is not one person standing upright that would not want justice to be served in this case or any case like it. But that is not the issue in this discussion. Now that it is not one of your own being exposed on the wrong end of a camera, you want justice. You have no problem not waiting for all of the facts. Hypocrite much, Officer?
Where are these officers, these objective truth seekers, admonishing all of us to wait for the facts in this sad case before deciding the guilt or innocence of these men? I’ll tell you where they are: driving the bandwagon. If this were an incident involving a law enforcement officer instead of two citizens that by all accounts acted overzealously and without due cause, we would be hearing this phrase ad nauseum.
This gets worse.
This case occurred on February 23. Personally, I had never heard of Ahmaud Arbery until about two days ago. There are probably many of you as well that were in the dark about this case. The question is: why?
District Attorneys have an enormous amount of power. I cannot overstate that: District Attorneys have an ENORMOUS amount of power when it comes to decisions of life and death for those accused of criminal violations. They also have an enormous amount of power over the lives of victims and their families. Power can be a blessing, and power can be a curse.
It appears that in this case a preliminary investigation was carried out by local law enforcement. Having worked in that profession, the case probably unfolded something like this. Local law enforcement responded to a call of a shooting resulting from an altercation in the neighborhood in question. Due to the severity of the event, detectives most likely were immediately notified and also responded to the scene. A crime scene would have been established, and the two men that are now charged with murder would have been segregated and required to give a full, detailed account of what happened. This would not have been a rapid event if done properly.
After evidence had been gathered, investigating officers would have consulted with the district attorney who would make a decision to formally charge the two men, most likely by sending the charging package to a convened grand jury. This was generally the process in every major crime in which I was involved during my career, including several criminal homicides. From what we are being fed in the media, there is little to no information that would indicate that the district attorney made any effort to provide the grand jury with any information regarding this case seeking an indictment. If this information exists, I have not seen it in any media account that I have read.
As I write this, I can hear the voices of law enforcement officers saying at that point there was nothing more they could do. Those voices would be wrong. I say this because I lived in that world, and I witnessed actions like these in countless cases, although not to the degree of this case. If law enforcement involved in this case felt that the facts of the case merited an indictment by a grand jury but the case was being stymied, they had two simple avenues of recourse. First, an anonymous leak to the media would have brought this case to light a long time ago. Second, if the civil rights of any citizen, most notably the victim of a criminal homicide, have been violated, the FBI should have been notified. None of this was done.
And then, there is the video.
My question here is directly pointed at the individual who filmed this tragedy: Exactly where have you been for three months, and why did you turn the video over to the police now? At first glance, this seems like a happenstance occurrence. I do not concur based on two observations. First, let’s look at human behavior. We all take video and pictures with our phones. I certainly do. But we must ask ourselves what prompted this unknown person to start shooting video seconds prior to this event unfolding. It’s almost like he or she knew what was about to happen…. Or they were just fortuitous. Second, why did this person not turn this footage over to the police immediately? I would ask all of you that read this to consider what you would do if you captured video like this by chance on your phone. You, dear reader, witness a man being shot and killed in the middle of a quiet street. What do you do? If you do nothing similar to what this unknown individual did, then I would submit that you are also part of the problem.
America has lost its soul. America has lost its sense of righteousness. It would have been just as easy for these two men to call the police rather than acting foolishly. Arbery posed no threat to them, nor anyone else for that matter based on what we are finally hearing from official sources. This was not an imminent self-defense scenario based on any information that I can see.
As for our neighbors in law enforcement and our courts, let this be a stern lesson to you. This is exactly why people don’t trust you anymore. I worked in that world in both the civilian and military arenas. You had two months to do the right thing, and you did nothing. Oh yeah, I get it now…. You were just waiting for all the facts, right?