Ahmaud Arbery’s mother on meeting with Trump: ‘He was very compassionate’
The mother of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man shot and killed while jogging in a Georgia neighborhood earlier this year, said President Trump was “very compassionate” when he met with families affected by violence and police brutality.
Wanda Cooper-Jones told Fox News that the president was “very receiving” and listened to all of the participants present during the closed-door meeting at the White House on Tuesday.
“I was very, very emotional throughout the whole conference,” she said. “He was very compassionate. He showed major concern for all families. Not just one family, but for all families.”
She elaborated on the meeting in conversations with reporters on Capitol Hill, saying she didn’t think Trump’s executive order unveiled Tuesday was “enough,” but called it “a start.”
Trump took to Twitter after the meeting and called Cooper-Jones a “great woman.”
“Her son is looking down from heaven & is very proud of his wonderful & loving mom!!!” the president wrote.
A GREAT woman. Her son is looking down from heaven & is very proud of his wonderful & loving mom!!! https://t.co/ZzKUbjlOOT
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 17, 2020
Trump met with families before signing the order on police reform amid a broad national debate sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
Other participants of the meeting included family members of African Americans killed by police officers such as Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson and Cameron Lamb.
Jean’s sister, Allisa Findley, told USA Today that Trump appeared to be “responding to cues” when listening to family members.
She said the president would say “we are gonna have to do something about that” as each family was discussing their story and then would ask Attorney General William Barr about the cases.
Lee Merritt, an attorney representing the families, accompanied them to the White House meeting before he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on police use of force.
Merritt told ABC News that “tears were flowing” during the “heavy meeting” at the White House.
The lawyer said he felt the president’s concern was genuine but expressed skepticism that it would lead to reform.
“I believe it was genuine concern for each of the families represented,” Merritt said. “He gave no indication that the families in that room reflected a problem in America, that policy could actually resolve it — and it can — so that was my concern.”
However, Merritt tweeted that the group “secured a commitment to independent federal investigations of each of the families that accompanied me to the White House.”
“This commitment is not currency. This commitment does not help save lives in the future but potentially will help these families get justice,” Merritt wrote.
We secured a commitment to independent federal investigations of each of the families that accompanied me to the White House.
This commitment is not currency. This commitment does not help save lives in the future but potentially will help these families get justice.
— S. Lee Merritt, Esq. (@MeritLaw) June 16, 2020
The president’s executive order was his most concrete action to date after he faced criticism for failing to address underlying causes of racial inequality and police brutality.
The measure prioritizes federal funding for police departments that embrace de-escalation tactics, including a ban on chokeholds outside of instances where an officer’s life is in danger, and improves the government’s ability to track officers with a history of excessive force complaints.
“Many of these families lost their loved ones in deadly interactions with police,” Trump said in his remarks. “To all of the hurting families, I want you to know that all Americans mourn by your side. Your loved ones will not have died in vain. We are one nation. We grieve together, and we heal together.”
Arbery’s case drew widespread national attention after video emerged of his shooting death earlier this year. He was killed by two white men while jogging in Brunswick, Ga., on Feb. 23. The men charged in his death, a father and son, said they believed Arbery to be a suspect in a recent string of break-ins in the area. They were not arrested until May.