“When we became involved, we knew the case was already over two months old,” Reynolds said. “We certainly realized it was a case that had been around a while. It was a case that generated a great deal of emotion and passion, and we respect that.”
Bryan’s arrest comes two weeks after the GBI apprehended Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34, who authorities said confronted Arbery with firearms while he was running in a residential neighborhood in Brunswick, Ga., on Feb. 23. Both McMichaels were charged with murder and aggravated assault, and the GBI has said that Travis McMichael fatally shot Arbery during the encounter.
Video of Arbery’s killing sent shock waves through the coastal community in southeast Georgia and angered racial-justice advocates across the United States, leaving many to wonder why it took more than two months for the McMichaels to be arrested.
Details pertaining to the initial investigation of Arbery’s death, which has been handled by four different prosecutors, have been heavily scrutinized in recent weeks, and attorneys for Arbery’s mother have charged that it was “mishandled from the very beginning.”
Two local district attorneys had recused themselves from the case before the GBI was brought in this month. The agency arrested the McMichaels within two days of taking the reins on the case and was also asked by Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr (R) to conduct an investigation of possible prosecutorial misconduct.
Reynolds said Friday that the misconduct investigation is ongoing.
Lee Merritt, an attorney representing Arbery’s family, has repeatedly called for Bryan’s arrest. After the GBI’s announcement Thursday, he and other attorneys for the family said in a statement that Bryan’s involvement in the killing was “obvious to us, to many around the country and after their thorough investigation, it was clear to the GBI as well.”
“We want anyone who participated in the murder of Mr. Arbery to be held accountable,” the attorneys added.
Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, did not immediately return a phone call and message sent through his website requesting comment Thursday evening. Gough told CNN on Monday that his client had taken a polygraph test, which he said confirmed Bryan was not involved with the shooting. Gough has previously tried to distance Bryan from the McMichaels’ alleged actions, telling reporters Tuesday that Bryan “is not now and has never been more than a witness to the shooting of Mr. Arbery.”
“He is not a vigilante. Roddie did not participate in the horrific killing of this young man,” he said. “Mr. Bryan has committed no crime and bears no criminal responsibility in the death of Ahmaud Arbery.”
The GBI’s Reynolds offered a different sentiment Friday.
“I can tell you that if we believed he was a witness, we wouldn’t have arrested him,” he said. “So there’s probable cause, and we’re comfortable with that.”
Asked about the nature of Bryan’s charges when he did not pull the trigger, Reynolds replied that in Georgia, the felony murder charge applies if someone commits a felony crime that ends in the death of another person.
“As the warrants indicated, he’s charged with an underlying felony and he’s also charged with felony murder,” Reynolds added. “We believe the evidence would indicate his underlying felony helped cause the death of Ahmaud Arbery.”
According to a police report, Greg McMichael told police that he and his son pursued Arbery after McMichael recognized him from “several recent break-ins in the neighborhood.” He said Bryan tried unsuccessfully to block Arbery’s path and that at that point, he and his son “jumped into the bed of the truck” and continued the chase, the police report said.