The release of video footage portraying the fatal shooting of 25-year-old Georgia native Ahmaud Arbery in February has sparked intense scrutiny and has drawn calls for prayer and investigation from numerous Christian leaders.
Arbery, who was black, was pursued on Feb. 23 by two white men in a truck, Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis. The elder McMichael said there had been a series of break-ins in his neighborhood around the time he saw Arbery, whose family said he routinely jogged in the area.
Gregory McMichael, a former Glynn County police officer and retired investigator with the local district attorney’s office, said he was standing in his front yard when he saw Arbery running down the street. He ran inside his home to tell his son he’d spotted Arbery. The two men grabbed their firearms, piled into a truck and chased the 25-year-old man “in an attempt to intercept him,” according to a police report obtained by The New York Times.
The duo tried to “cut off” Arbery, but he ran the other direction. They tried apprehending him once more from a different direction, at which point they shot Arbery dead. Gregory McMichael told police Arbery “began to violently attack Travis,” who then began fighting with the man before his son fired his gun twice.
S. Lee Merritt, the attorney representing Arbery’s mother, released the footage of the deadly encounter this week, claiming the video shows Arbery was targeted “solely because of his race” and “murdered … without justification.”
The below video is graphic and may disturb some viewers:
So far, no arrests have been made.
District Attorney George Barnhill has argued the McMichaels acted lawfully in their pursuit of Arbery and that Travis McMichael was acting in self-defense, noting prior records showed Arbery had an “aggressive nature.”
How are Christian leaders responding?
Numerous Christian leaders from Georgia and around the U.S. are responding to the reports about Arbery’s death.
Jentezen Franklin, a megachurch pastor based in Gainesville, Georgia, has called on authorities to “expeditiously complete their investigation of the circumstances surrounding the death of Ahmaud Arbery and take all appropriate measures in response to what appears to be a horribly heinous crime.”
“I pray for justice, and I pray for the family of Ahmaud Arbery as they still bare the pain of their loss,” Franklin added.
Christian actor, author, and speaker Priscilla Shirer described the developments surrounding Arbery’s death as “wrong and devastating.”
Australian preacher Christine Caine echoed those words, calling the news out of Georgia “so wrong” and “sickening.”
Christian speaker and movie producer DeVon Franklin called for justice for Arbery.
Christian author Jennie Allen, founder of the IF: Gathering, wrote in an Instagram post Thursday, “This is my son Cooper and this is Ahmaud Arbery. I watched the video of the murder of Ahmaud yesterday. The shooters were never arrested. As a mother and a follower of Jesus Christ, I cannot casually notice injustice, evil, racism, or white supremacy and not do something. God help us.”
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) posted a tweet Tuesday, writing, “Georgians deserve answers. State law enforcement stands ready to ensure justice is served.”
And Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) said she is “deeply concerned” about Arbery’s death, adding she’s “calling for swift action and immediate answers in the wake of this tragedy.”
“With the Georgia Bureau of Investigation now committed to assisting local law enforcement,” she wrote in a statement, “I anticipate a thorough and rigorous investigation will be conducted, and that it will deliver much-needed clarity and justice in this case.”
“My prayers are with the Arbery family for their devastating loss,” the senator added.