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Arbery family lawyer: Feds looking into how case handled

Last Updated May 25, 2020 at 6:08 pm EDT

In this May 17, 2020, photo, a recently painted mural of Ahmaud Arbery is on display in Brunswick, Ga., where the 25-year-old man was shot and killed in February. It was painted by Miami artist Marvin Weeks. (AP Photo/Sarah Blake Morgan)

ATLANTA — A lawyer for the family of Ahmaud Arbery said Monday that a federal prosecutor told the slain man’s mother federal officials are investigating potential misconduct by local officials who handled the case.

Lawyer Lee Merritt said U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine, whose jurisdiction includes southern Georgia, met with him and Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, on Thursday.

“They wanted us to know they had already been involved in the investigation,” Merritt said.

Barry Paschal, a spokesman for Christine, declined to confirm or deny whether the meeting happened.

“Our office does not discuss active investigations, including addressing whether or not those investigations exist,” Paschal said.

Arbery was fatally shot Feb. 23 when a white father and son pursued the 25-year-old black man after spotting him running in their subdivision just outside of Brunswick. They told police they believed he was responsible for break-ins in their neighbourhood. More than two months passed before Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, were arrested on charges of felony murder and aggravated assault.

Brunswick Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson has defended her office’s involvement. The elder McMichael worked for her as an investigator before retiring a year ago, which required the office to step away from the case.

She handed the case to Waycross Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill. That prosecutor also recused himself, but not before writing a letter saying he believed the McMichaels had been justified in trying to hold Arbery until police arrived and their actions were “perfectly legal.”

Jeff Amy, The Associated Press