She demanded that the three men charged in Arbery's death be prosecuted not only on charges of killing her son but also for targeting him because of his skin color.
Trigger Warning: The story has details of gun violence and racism that readers may find disturbing
The mother of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was chased down and killed while jogging in Glynn County, Georgia, is calling for state lawmakers to pass a hate crime law in response to her son’s death. Making an impassioned plea for justice in an opinion video published by the New York Times on Tuesday, Wanda Cooper-Jones asked: "How was my son Ahmaud Arbery’s murder not a hate crime?" She demanded that the three men charged in Arbery's death—Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William "Roddie" Bryan, Jr.—be prosecuted not only on charges of killing her son but also for targeting him because of his skin color.
"To me, this was clearly a hate crime, but Georgia is one of four states in the country without a hate crime law," Cooper-Jones said. "If Georgia had a hate crime law, Ahmaud's killers could face additional sentencing for murdering my son because of the color of his skin." According to CNN, Georgia Bureau of Investigation Assistant Special Agent in Charge Richard Dial said during a preliminary hearing last week that Bryan overheard Travis McMichael use an expletive along with a racial slur to describe Arbery as the 25-year-old lay dead in the street.
"I stand with all mothers who have lost sons to these type of events. We do demand change. We can't lose another life to such tragedy. Something has to change." - Wanda Cooper, mother of Ahmaud Arbery, who was fatally shot while jogging in Georgia. https://t.co/FIa7KO9bkb pic.twitter.com/73U6CU7xdX— CNN (@CNN) June 10, 2020
Dial stated that there were "numerous times" on social media and via messaging services that McMichael used the same racial slur. Speaking to CNN's Chris Cuomo, Lee Merritt—the attorney for Arbery's family—said the testimony proved that "this was an intentional act by men who were motivated by hate." However, Georgia is one of just four states in the country without a hate crime law. The state lawmakers are now in a position to change this as they go back into session next Monday where they will have the opportunity to decide whether to bring a hate crime bill up for a vote.
Tomorrow we release part 1 of our 2-part investigation into the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. Host Ana Garcia examines allegations of racism, police corruption & prosecutorial misconduct, & tells the story of Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, and her fight for justice. pic.twitter.com/BY914kY9Nr— True Crime Daily (@CrimeWatchDaily) June 9, 2020
"I know that prejudice and racism did exist in the place that I chose (to call) home. I had to explain to Ahmaud that he will be sometimes disliked because of the color of his skin. But when he left our home for a jog, I never thought that I needed to be worried. Ahmaud wasn’t killed because he was doing a crime. So, why would he have been targeted if it wasn’t just for hate?" asked Cooper-Jones. "Last year, Georgia State House moved in the right direction, passing House Bill 426, which will impose harsher sentencing for hate crimes. But the bill has been stalled for a year and state senate leadership refuses to vote on it. Chairman (of the Judiciary Committee) Jesse Stone and Lieutenant Governor (Geoff) Duncan, please do the right thing."
Ahmaud Arbery was killed while jogging. “If Georgia had a hate crime law, Ahmaud's killers could face additional sentencing for murdering my son because of the color of his skin,” says Wanda Cooper-Jones, his mother. https://t.co/2hPtPE33Jn pic.twitter.com/NgrFfZxy0T— New York Times Opinion (@nytopinion) June 9, 2020
"If we can’t stop these hate-inspired attacks, we can at least prosecute them for what they are," she added. Cooper-Jones, who attended the preliminary hearing with Merritt last week, called the revelations heartbreaking. "I often imagine the last minutes of my son's life. I didn't imagine it would be that harsh," she said at the time. "At this point, I'm really speechless because ... it's hard to know that he had to go through that after he had ran. He actually ran for his life. Then when he couldn't run anymore, he had to fight, and then after he fought, he was killed. I'm hoping that the death of my son, also of Mr. Floyd, that their deaths will implement change. We need change. So no other African-American male will lose their life in such a manner."
A MOTHER’S MESSAGE: Among the mothers attending George Floyd's funeral was Wanda Cooper-Jones, whose son Ahmaud Arbery was fatally shot in Georgia; she tells @DavidMuir why she needed to be in Houston and her hope change can happen if “we stand together.”https://t.co/IV4UljtqeC pic.twitter.com/hCeGjrE7F5— World News Tonight (@ABCWorldNews) June 10, 2020