ATLANTA - There are many things Wanda Cooper Jones misses about her son, Ahmaud Arbery.
"Ahmaud was loved. Anybody that was around Ahmaud knew he was a young guy of love and he told you that. He didn't shy away from those three words--'I love you,'" Cooper-Jones said.
"I mean, I get lost with my words and thoughts because we lost a lot there," she added.
Ahmaud Arbery died in an act of vigilante violence on February 23, 2020. But it wasn't until nearly three months later when the world saw how the 25-year-old was cornered by men in two different pickup trucks and savagely shot dead by a father-son duo who claimed they thought the Brunswick jogger was a burglar. A year after Arbery's shooting, his mother remains focused on the quest for justice against the three men charged with murder.
"I wake up every day, just breathing for justice. I'm fighting for justice going forward. I want these criminals to be in jail forever and that's my fight," said Cooper-Jones, who was relieved to hear Glynn County Courts will resume virtual hearings in this case.
Gregory McMichael (left) and his adult son, Travis McMichael (right).
Seventy-four days after William Roddie Bryan recorded the February shooting, the GBI charged Travis McMichael and his father Gregory with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault among other charges. Bryan was charged two weeks later. The McMichaels used the antiquated citizens' arrest statute that dates back to 1863 as their defense. Last week, Governor Brian Kemp called for a repeal of that statute.
"Ahmaud was a victim of vigilante-style violence that has no place in Georgia and some tried to claim they had the protection of an antiquated law that is ripe for abuse," Governor Kemp said during a February 16, 2021 news conference inside the Georgia State Capitol.
William Roderick Bryan is now facing charges in the death of Ahmaud Arbery (Glynn County Detention Center).
Ahmaud's mother said she is grateful for the governor heard the cries of the people and decided to revisit that dated statute, but she questioned if more could have been done sooner.
"I guess it's like a bitter-sweet moment. I'm thankful, but at the end of each day, I don't have Ahmaud," said Cooper-Jones.
Ahmaud's mother said she also grateful for the Georgia Hate Crimes legislation that was approved in the spring of 2020 following her son's murder and the November 2020 election that ended with the ousting of Jackie Johnson, the Glynn County D.A. accused of blocking arrests and hiding pertinent facts of the case in the days following the shooting. Gregory McMichael, a former Glynn County law enforcement officer, had previously worked as an investigator for the Glynn County District Attorney.
"My community of Brunswick has changed for the better. We were able to get out and we stood together as a community and we were able to get out the old DA who initially handled the case and delayed justice for Ahmaud. The changes are good, but it's very, very painful. I wish they would've addressed these laws decades ago and maybe this would have prevented Ahmaud being killed in the way that he was," said Cooper-Jones who will host a prayer vigil and a call for justice Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Springfield Baptist Church in Glynn County.
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