Three Georgia men were indicted on federal hate crime charges Wednesday in connection with the 2020 killing of Ahmaud Arbery. Speaking on Boston Public Radio on Thursday, former Suffolk County sheriff Andrea Cabral noted the marked departure from Justice Department practice under former Attorney General William Barr.
“It does cause you to think about all of the work of the Justice Department that was intrinsic to its mission, from its inception, that stopped during the Trump administration,” she said.
Arbery, a 25 year-old Black resident of Glynn County, Ga., was out for a jog when he was shot and killed by the three men in February of last year. His murder, and later-released footage of the incident, stoked nationwide tensions around racism in America.
Last May, father and son Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael were arrested by state officials and charged with felony murder, along with William "Roddie" Bryan, who participated in the pursuit and filmed the killing from his pickup truck.
“He was essentially hunted and lynched,” Cabral said, noting that the men “not only chased him in their trucks, armed with rifles,” but “cut off Arbery’s path as he was trying to escape them.”
“They boxed him in, got out of the truck and essentially shot him to death, while at least one of them was shouting racial epithets over his dead or dying body,” she added.
Now, according to a statement from the Justice Department, both the McMichaels and Bryan have been charged with hate crimes and attempted kidnapping. At the time Arbery was killed, the state of Georgia did not have a law in place specifically targeting hate crimes.
Earlier in the week, writer and academic Saida Grundy joined Boston Public Radio, where she spoke about her writing on the limits of hate crime legislation. Asked if she agreed with Grundy’s notion that hate-crime laws are ineffective tools for limiting racial violence, Cabral disagreed.
She said it "remains important that when people are targeted because of who they are, because of their immutable characteristics of gender or race, [or] because of their religion, those are crimes that need particular attention paid to them, because of who we say we are ... as a democracy in this country.”
Cabral is the former sheriff of Suffolk County and the former Massachusetts secretary of public safety. She is currently CEO of the cannabis company Ascend.