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More than 80 lawmakers call for federal probe into Ahmaud Arbery shooting

More than 80 lawmakers call for federal probe into Ahmaud Arbery shooting
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A group of more than 80 lawmakers is calling for a federal criminal civil rights investigation into the case of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old African-American man who was shot and killed in a Georgia neighborhood after allegedly being chased by two white men.

In a letter spearheaded by Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerSenate Democrats reelect Schumer as leader by acclamation  Hill associations push for more diversity in lawmakers' staffs Sanders celebrates Biden-Harris victory: 'Thank God democracy won out' MORE (D-N.J.) and Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyGOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' Pelosi faces caucus divisions in Biden era Record number of Black women elected to Congress in 2020 MORE (D-Mass.) and sent to the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division on Wednesday, the lawmakers express outrage over Arbery's killing and how local prosecutors initially handled the incident.

They write that because Georgia does not have a law prohibiting or acknowledging bias-based crimes, "the DOJ Civil Rights Division is uniquely suited to investigate whether or not the tragic death of Mr. Arbery was a hate crime, or another violation of federal civil rights law."

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"There must be a fair and independent investigation into the handling of Mr. Arbery’s case to determine any constitutional violations by Glynn County District Attorney’s Office or Police Department," they added.

The letter was signed by Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration Voters say Biden should make coronavirus vaccine a priority: poll New York City subway service could be slashed 40 percent, officials warn MORE (D-N.Y.), Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation Clyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Prepare for buyers' remorse when Biden/Harris nationalize health care MORE (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezTrump tweets Thanksgiving criticism of NFL QBs for kneeling Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation MORE (D-N.Y.), among others. 

Arbery was shot and killed near Brunswick, Ga., a coastal town about 300 miles outside of Atlanta, on Feb. 23. No arrests were made until last week after a video surfaced showing a deadly confrontation between Arbery and two men. Arbery's family said the confrontation occurred while he was out jogging. 

Footage displayed a white pickup blocking Arbery’s path as he appeared to run through the neighborhood. The recording, which captured multiple gunshots as well as a struggle between Arbery and another man, quickly sparked outrage from the public and demands from state and federal lawmakers for a thorough investigation.

Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34, were arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault last Thursday, just days after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation launched a probe into the matter. The Justice Department has since announced that it is assessing all of the evidence in the case and weighing whether hate crime charges are warranted. 

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Scrutiny has mounted over how no arrests were made in the case for more than two months. At the time of the incident, the McMichaels told police that they suspected Arbery was a man linked to a series of break-ins in the neighborhood. Gregory McMichael also alleged that his son shot Arbery after being attacked by the victim, according to a police report.

The first two prosecutors to take on the case recused themselves due to potential conflicts of interest with the defendants. Gregory McMichael had been an investigator in the office of the prosecutor first assigned to the case.

Tom Durden of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit became the third prosecutor to take up Arbery's case. But on Monday, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr (R) announced that Joyette Holmes of the Cobb County Judicial Circuit would lead the prosecution. 

Carr has also asked the Justice Department to launch an investigation into how the shooting of Arbery was handled. He asked the department to probe “communications and discussions by and between the Office of the District Attorney of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit and the Office of the District Attorney of the Waycross Judicial Circuit related to this case."