For The Record

Man who filmed Arbery video arrested and charged with murder Thursday

By: - May 21, 2020 9:09 pm

GBI Director Vic Reynolds updated the media on the latest developments of the Ahmuad Arbery case on Friday, which includes the arrest of the man who filmed the Feb. 23 shooting of Arbery in Glynn County. Screen grab from 11 Alive Atlanta

This story has been updated with information from a Friday GBI news conference

The man who filmed the video of the Ahmaud Arbery shooting and who now faces murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment charges allegedly attempted to block Arbery from getting away.

The head of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Friday he expects the agency to soon turn the Arbery case over to special prosecutor Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes. On Thursday, the GBI arrested William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., 50, the man whose viral video sparked a national outcry when it became public in early May.

Bryan’s arrest comes two weeks after GBI Director Vic Reynolds announced murder charges against two white men in the Feb. 23 slaying of the unarmed black jogger. 

The warrant for Bryan accuses him of attempting to use his vehicle to confine and detain Arbery.  

Bryan, who is also white, now joins Travis McMichael, 34, and Greg McMichael, 64, in the Glynn County jail for the Feb. 23 shooting of Arbery. Bryan has said he did not coordinate with the McMichaels and declared his innocence.

The McMichaels say they chased and confronted Arbery because they thought he committed burglaries in the Satilla Shores neighborhood outside Brunswick. 

Bryan’s attorney has described him as a “star witness” in the case, saying he did not have any conversation that day with the McMichaels leading up to the shooting.  

William “Roddie” Bryan. Glynn County Sheriff’s Office

Greg McMichael, however, told investigators that during the chase, Bryan unsuccessfully attempted to block Arbery after Travis McMichael used the pickup truck to cut off Arbery.

During a Friday press conference, Reynolds said there was no proverbial last straw culminating in Bryan’s arrest. 

Someone can be charged with murder in Georgia if they are involved in a felony offense when the killing takes place.

“Not to speak on the facts that’ll come out in the court of law, but I can tell you that if we believed he was a witness, we wouldn’t have arrested him,” Reynolds said outside of the GBI headquarters in Decatur. 

Reynolds said he doesn’t anticipate the GBI charging anyone else for murder in the case. 

He expects the agency to soon wrap up its investigation into how some prosecutors handled the case before the GBI’s involvement. Those files will be turned over to the Attorney General’s Office.

“As I told you, back when I stood before you two weeks ago today, we intended on turning over every stone in this case,” Reynolds said. “The agents have done that, and I’m very, very proud of the work they’re doing.”

Following the McMichaels’ May 7 arrests, Arbery family attorneys and civil rights groups called for authorities to hold Bryan responsible for joining the pursuit that led to Arbery’s death. 

In Bryan’s viral video, Arbery runs down Satilla Drive when he comes upon a white pickup truck, where Travis McMichael waited with a shotgun and his father Greg stood in the truck bed wielding a handgun. 

Arbery struggles with Travis McMichael, then staggers and falls after being shot before the video cuts out.

On Monday, Bryan’s attorney Kevin Gough pleaded for Arbery’s attorneys to stop calling for Bryan’s arrest as his client and some family members are getting threats. He described Bryan as the “star witness” in the case.

“Whether you realize it or not, y’all have put a target on his back,” Gough said. “He is unarmed and defenseless. A sitting duck.”

During an interview that aired on ABC’s Good Morning America on May 12, Bryan declined to say what prompted him to join the chase and record it.

“If the video wasn’t there, I don’t think there would be an outcome that anybody would be satisfied with,” he said. “I’m not proud that I shot that video, but maybe it helps.”

Arbery family attorneys harshly criticized Gough for describing Bryan as defenseless.

“We were not the first people to accuse (Bryan) of being involved,” attorney Chris Stewart said earlier this week. “That was the McMichaels in the police report. They said Roddie blocked him off. They said he took part in this chase.”

The attorneys for the McMichaels say the portrayal of their clients as two white men out for racially-charged vigilante justice is inaccurate.

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Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap

Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.