Wanda Cooper, the mother of Ahmaud Arbery, filed a lawsuit against the Glynn County Police Department and the District Attorney’s office Tuesday on the one-year anniversary of his murder. Arbery was shot while jogging by several vigilantes who had been deputized by police. His name became a rallying cry during the 2020 protests against police brutality.
The complaint recounts how local property owner Larry English, who did not live in the county, asked law enforcement to address visitors who would sometimes venture onto his construction site. He captured video of at least 11 trespassers including “a couple of kids and a white couple,” and asked Glynn County police officer Robert Rash to patrol the area. Rash then deputized former police officer and investigator Gregory McMichael, his son Travis, and neighbors William Bryan and Diego Perez. The lawsuit reveals that although he was a retired officer, Gregory McMichael lost his authority to arrest people in 2006 and was not permitted to carry a gun in the months before he retired.
On the day of the murder, Arbery was on a run when he stopped by the English property for a quick rest. He did not disturb the property or take anything, but the McMichaels and Bryan saw him exit the house and began to chase him with their cars. With authorization from the local police department, they stalked and murdered Arbery in broad daylight. Travis McMichaels, who shot him, stood over his body and uttered a racial slur.
Cooper’s lawsuit also alleges that the police department attempted to brush the murder under the rug. When they called Cooper to inform her of Arbery’s death, she says they “falsely informed [her] that her son had been involved in the commission of a burglary, had been confronted by the “homeowner,” and had subsequently been killed.” McMichael’s previous employment at the district attorney’s office also caused several conflicts of interest issues. The case bounced around multiple nearby offices following a series of recusals due to DA’s relationships with McMichael. No arrests were made in the case until video footage of the murder garnered national attention on social media.
Cooper accuses the police department, the district attorney’s offices and the men responsible for the murder of violating Arbery’s civil rights. The lawsuit contains evidence of several defendants using racial slurs and engaging in discriminatory behavior.