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Ahmaud Arbery's mom shares what she would tell the men convicted of murdering her son

All three men responsible for Arbery's death now face life sentences with a possibility of parole after 30 years.

Ahmaud Arbery's mom shares what she would tell the men convicted of murdering her son
Cover Image Source: Tears streak down the cheek of Ahmaud Arbery's mother Wanda Cooper-Jones in the Glynn County Courthouse, on November 24, 2021, in Brunswick, Georgia. (Photo by Stephen B. Morton-Pool/Getty Images)

Ahmaud Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, says she is feeling particularly thankful this Thanksgiving after the three men who killed her son were found guilty of his murder. "Today is Thanksgiving and I'm really, really thankful. My family and I are really, really thankful for the verdict we got yesterday," she told Good Morning America in an interview on Thursday. "We finally got justice for Ahmaud." She also shared her gratitude while speaking to CNN following the long-awaited verdict, saying: "This is the second Thanksgiving that my family and I will share without Ahmaud. But this is the first Thanksgiving that we can look at that empty chair and say, 'We finally got justice for you, Ahmaud.'"


Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was shot dead while out for a jog in a mostly-white southern Georgia neighborhood in February 2020. The three men involved in his death—father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael, and their neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan Jr.—were not arrested until May 2020. They later claimed they were trying to conduct a citizen's arrest of Arbery, who was unarmed and on foot, because they believed he might have committed a crime. "The word 'guilty' was a word that I wanted to hear 18 months ago," Cooper-Jones added. "And we finally got that word of guilty. It took us 74 days -- 74 days to get an arrest. And I knew it was my job as Mom to really find out what happened to Ahmaud. I prayed, and God answered my prayers. So I'm just thankful sitting here this morning."


Despite the long and painful road to justice for her son, Cooper-Jones displayed incredible empathy and grace when asked if she had a message for the three men responsible for her son's death. "I would simply tell them that their bad decisions have impacted two families—my family and again their family," she said. "Not only did the McMichaels lose a son, they lost a grandfather and they will be impacted by his grandchild. I lost a son, but they lost three generations there."


On Wednesday, Travis McMichael—the man who fatally shot Arbery—was convicted by a Glynn County jury on all nine charges, including malice murder and four counts of felony murder.
His father, Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor Bryan—who recorded the incident on a cellphone—were convicted of felony murder and other charges. All three men now face a life sentence with a possibility of parole after 30 years. Speaking to CBS News, Cooper-Jones said the guilty verdicts were a "big victory" for her family and that it wouldn't have been possible without the footage of her son's death.


"It was like a dream come true... I don't think without that video we would have had any arrests, nevertheless a trial," she said, adding that it was important to keep her son's name alive because they'd gone 74 days without an arrest. "I mean, we went like two weeks without anybody knowing about actually what happened to Ahmaud on that Sunday afternoon," she said. "So from that point on, I knew that we had to keep it in the light of things to get some justice for Ahmaud."


The 12-member jury, comprised of 11 white people and one Black person, announced the guilty verdict after more than 11 hours of deliberations that spanned across two days. Cooper-Jones, who sat through eight days of intense testimony, said she wasn't that surprised by the verdict. "There's just really no words to really explain all the emotions that I was going through at that time," she said. "I sat there everyday, I heard the state present their evidence. I was very, very confident that they did a very good job of presenting their evidence and I knew that if the jurors took that evidence, went back and deliberated over the evidence that was presented, that we would get justice for Ahmaud -- and we did."


Cooper-Jones now hopes people will remember her son as a force for change. "Because Ahmaud has impacted changes in Georgia already with the citizen's arrest law," she said, noting that his death sparked meaningful advancements in Georgia law, including the state's first hate crime law and an overhaul of its citizen's arrest law. Such changes, she said, were proof her son "did not lose his life in vain." Cooper-Jones added: "I'm hoping... that before individuals, society, grab shotguns and chase someone who is running down the street and kill them, that they will also think that if they take those extreme actions that they will be held accountable. So maybe that thought will lead them in a better direction."


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