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Grand jury indicts 3 men arrested for murder of Ahmaud Arbery

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ftwitty/iStockBY: CHRISTINA CARREGA, ABC NEWS

(ATLANTA) — A Georgia grand jury indicted the three men arrested and charged in connection with the alleged murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

Cobb District Attorney Joyette M. Holmes announced on Wednesday that a grand jury voted to indict Gregory and Travis McMichael along with William Bryan for the felony murder and aggravated assault that resulted in Arbery death.

The indictment comes almost four months to the day Arbery was shot while on on his daily jog.

Holmes said the grand jury decision did not take long.

“The presentation took an hour and a half and the true bill came back in 10 minutes,” Holmes said during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.

They each face nine charges, including malice murder and felony murder.

“The family of Ahmaud Arbery is determined to see these men prosecuted, convicted and appropriately sentenced for the brutal hate crime that took Ahmaud’s life over four months ago,” said Lee Merritt, the lead attorney for the Arbery family.

On Feb. 23, Gregory McMichael spotted Arbery and assumed he was the person who committed “several break-ins” in their Satilla Shores neighborhood, according to a police report.

Gregory McMichael, a retired investigator with the Brunswick District Attorney’s Office who previously served as a Glynn County police officer, alerted his son and both grabbed their guns — a shotgun and .357 magnum, respectively — and jumped into a white pick-up truck.

Bryan was called and he recorded the chase after Arbery.

The cellphone video showed Arbery getting ambushed by the McMichaels.

Travis McMichael, armed with a shotgun, tussled with Arbery and fired three gunshots. Arbery was hit in his chest and died on the pavement.

“This confirms what Ahmaud’s father has been saying for months — that this was a lynching,” said Ben Crump, an attorney for the Arbery family. “This is a significant step on the road to justice and while nothing will bring back Ahmaud’s life, it is important that a Grand jury recognized his life had value and was wrongly and ruthlessly ended.”

The video leaked onto social media on May 5, igniting outrage and leading to the three arrests.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigations led the investigation and within 36 hours arrested the McMichaels. Bryan was taken into custody on May 21.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Public pressure mounts to revisit 2019 death of Elijah McClain, 23, while in custody

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Andy Cross/MediaNewsGroup/The Denver Post via Getty ImagesBY: CONOR FINNEGAN, ABC NEWS

(DENVER) — As the world sees unprecedented protests calling for an end to police brutality and systemic racism in the name of George Floyd, a Black man who died while in police custody, the death of another Black man who was being detained by police has received renewed attention.

Elijah McClain, 23, died after he was apprehended by Aurora, Colorado, police in August 2019.

McClain’s name has circulated throughout social media since Floyd’s death, with some highlighting his case as yet another unarmed Black man to die and others demanding some form of justice. One petition, calling for the officers involved to be taken off duty and a more “in-depth” investigation be conducted, has garnered more than 2.2 million signatures. That petition continued to grow as of Wednesday afternoon.

The story of McClain’s death is “one of the many, many examples … of an innocent young person who was absolutely minding his own business and was doing nothing wrong and was murdered by law enforcement,” McClain family attorney, Mari Newman, told ABC News.

McClain was walking home after buying iced tea at a corner store on August 24, 2019, when he was stopped by police, Newman said.

He was wearing a ski mask on a warm night — which Newman attributed to him getting cold — when a person called 911 at 10:30 p.m. to report him for being “sketchy,” according to an audio recording of the 911 call released by the Aurora Police Department.

The caller told a 911 operator that a man, later identified as McClain, “has a mask on” and “he might be a good person or a bad person.”

The caller said that no weapons were involved and when asked if he or anyone else was in danger, the caller can be heard responding, “no.”

Police responded to the scene. Body camera footage showed McClain walking on the sidewalk with three officers approaching him. One tells him to stop multiple times, but McClain continued to walk.

According to the body camera footage, that officer then puts his hands on McClain, saying “stop tensing up,” while McClain replies, “let go of me.” The two other officers then appear to put their hands on him at this point too, the video shows.

McClain tells the officers he was “going home.”

“You guys started to arrest me and I was stopping my music to listen,” McClain said, according to the body camera video. One officer says he wants to move McClain over to a grassy area, which is when McClain appeared to struggle with the officers.

During the struggle, one officer shouts that McClain had tried to reach for another officer’s gun, according to the body camera footage.

The officer whose gun McClain allegedly reached for later can be heard in the body camera footage that he did not remember feeling McClain go for his gun.

The officers bring him to the ground and place him in a carotid control hold — which involves an officer placing his arm around a person’s neck, restricting the flow of blood to the brain from the carotid arteries, according to a letter from Dave Young, the district attorney for Adams and Broomfield Counties, to then-Police Chief Nicholas Metz.

“I was just going home,” McClain cried out while on the ground, with an officer pinning him down. “I don’t do that stuff. I don’t do any fighting.”

McClain, who was placed in handcuffs, is seen at one point throwing up after the struggle with officers while he is on the ground.

Paramedics with the Aurora Fire Department were called to the scene, which is department policy after the application of a carotid control hold. According to Young’s letter, paramedics said that McClain remained combative and possibly suffered from a condition called excited delirium. McClain was later administered, by paramedics, what Newman alleged was an “excessive dose” of ketamine, which is used by medical practitioners and veterinarians as an anesthetic.

Part of the fire department’s protocol is to administer ketamine, with the goal of “rapid tranquilization in order to minimize time struggling,” according to the DA’s letter.

The Adams County coroner said in McClain’s autopsy report that there was a “therapeutic level” of ketamine in his system.

“Even though he was totally restrained on the ground, the Aurora paramedics injected him with a dosage of ketamine,” Newman said. “It was certainly not appropriate because he wasn’t acting in any out-of-control way” when the ketamine was administered.

After McClain was put in an ambulance, he suffered from cardiac arrest, according to police. Though police said McClain regained consciousness and was being treated at a local hospital, he died several days later.

Young, the district attorney, declined to bring charges against the officers involved. Young wrote in a letter to Metz, which was obtained by ABC News, that McClain was “violently struggling” with the officers and there is “no evidence to dispute the perception of the officers in the need to escalate the use of force.”

The Adams County coroner ruled back in November 2019 that McClain’s cause of death was “undetermined.”

Possible contributing factors were listed as “intense physical exertion and a narrow left coronary artery,” according to the autopsy, which was obtained by ABC News. Newman said McClain did not have any underlying medical conditions.

When reached for comment, police directed ABC News to previous statements they had made regarding McClain’s death.

“We fully understand the need for transparency throughout this entire investigation and we can appreciate the seriousness of this matter. … We continue to offer our deepest condolences to the McClain family and friends during this very difficult time,” Aurora police said in a statement two days after the incident.

Newman, though, viewed it drastically differently.

“It was straight up torture really. … The police failed him on every level, I mean that doesn’t even begin to capture it,” she said.

Newman said McClain’s family has mixed feelings about seeing their son’s case gain more attention.

“They were very distraught and disappointed at how little attention his murder got at the time that it happened, so I think they’re glad to see that people are now paying attention,” she said. “I think it’s also very hard … to suddenly be thrusted to the limelight and having to talk about the very worst thing that’s ever happened to them.”

Newman said she thinks the public is now facing a reckoning of how it views police.

“A lot of the time people like to reassure themselves that the only people who get killed by law enforcement are people who were doing something wrong … He wasn’t doing anything wrong,” Newman said.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis responded to the newfound attention on the case in a tweet on Wednesday.

“Public confidence in our law enforcement process is incredibly important now more than ever. A fair and objective process free from real or perceived bias for investigating officer-involved killings is critical,” Polis wrote. “I am hearing from many Coloradans who have expressed concerns with the investigation of Elijah McClain’s death. As a result, I have instructed my legal council to examine what the state can do and we are assessing next steps.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

White supremacist terrorism 'on the rise and spreading,' State Dept. says in new report

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Alex Wong/Getty ImagesBY: CONOR FINNEGAN, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) — The threat of racially or ethnically motivated terrorism, especially white supremacist terrorism, is “on the rise and spreading geographically,” according to a new report by the State Department, as the threat from ISIS and other radical Islamist terror groups evolves.

The annual report, released Wednesday by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, details by country and terror organization the threats emanating around the world.

While 2019 saw some banner accomplishments in counter terrorism, according to Pompeo, like the killing of ISIS’s founding leader and the fall of its caliphate, the threat of terrorism has morphed and expanded to new regions, especially the Sahel in northern Africa.

This year’s report put even greater focus on white supremacist terrorism, just weeks after the department designated a white supremacist group as a foreign terrorist organization for the first time. In 2019, there were several high-profile attacks motivated by the ideology, including the Christchurch, New Zealand, mosque shooting in March; the El Paso, Texas, shooting in August; and the Halle, Germany, synagogue shooting in October.

That kind of “violence (is) both on the rise and spreading geographically, as white supremacist and nativist movements and individuals increasingly target immigrants; Jewish, Muslim, and other religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or intersex (LGBTI) individuals; governments; and other perceived enemies,” the report said.

According to U.S. ambassador-at-large for counter terrorism Nathan Sales, that threat has expanded since 2015, but he praised the Trump administration for taking it on.

“It took this administration coming into power to really prioritize stepping up efforts against this threat here in the case of the FBI and DHS, but also abroad where this department comes into play,” Sales said.

In April, the State Department designated the Russian Imperial Movement, a white supremacist group, as a “foreign terrorist organization” for the first time, barring U.S. individuals from supporting the group.

While that action was unprecedented, President Donald Trump has also downplayed the threat of white supremacist groups, telling reporters last year, “It’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess.”

The State Department also announced Wednesday that it was increasing its reward for information leading to ISIS’s new leader, Amir Muhammad Sa’id Abdal-Rahman al-Mawla, who is also known as Abu Muslim al-Turkmani. The U.S. government will now provide up to $10 million for details leading to his whereabouts, Pompeo announced, adding, “We’re undaunted in our pursuit of bringing terrorists to justice.”

Although ISIS’s caliphate fell and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in 2019, the threat from the terror group has “evolved,” according to Sales — calling it now “a global network that reaches every inhabited continent” and continues to conduct and inspire attacks.

That includes in Iraq and Syria, once home to ISIS’s caliphate, where Sales said, “We have to keep our eye on the ball … to prevent any ISIS remnants from reconstituting, to prevent them from continuing attacks.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Lauren Alaina releasing collaboration with Trisha Yearwood on Friday

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ABC/Lou RoccoLauren Alaina is collaborating with one of her heroes. 

The American Idol season 10 runner-up announced on Twitter that she and Trisha Yearwood are teaming up for a new rendition of her song, “Getting Good,” that’s set to drop on Friday. 

Lauren shared a clip of the two singing a snippet of the song during her appearance on Trisha’s Southern Kitchen. 

“I never could’ve imagined that this YEARWOOD give me the opportunity to release a duet with one of my favorite singers of all time,” Lauren writes in the punny caption. “I’m so proud to announce that @trishayearwood and I are releasing a collaboration of my single, ‘Getting Good’, this Friday.” 

“Getting Good” is the title track of Lauren’s EP that was released in March and is centered around one’s endless search for happiness.

“Once I get a little older/I won’t worry/Then you get older and it don’t feel like it should/I’m thinking once I learn to grow right where I’m planted/Maybe that’s when life starts getting good,” Lauren sings in the first verse. 

Lauren is also in the process of recording her third studio album, which follows 2017’s Road Less Traveled.  That album’s title track became her first number-one single.

By Cillea Houghton
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Why NASCAR’s Bubba Wallace says he’ll take embarrassment over the alternative

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Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesBY: Kelly McCarthy, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) — After “an emotional few days,” NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace addressed his followers on Twitter Wednesday after the FBI investigation concluded that he was not the direct target of a hate crime.

“First off, I want to say how relieved I am that the investigation revealed that this wasn’t what we feared it was,” Wallace said after NASCAR initially reported a noose was found in his team’s garage at the Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday. “I want to thank my team, NASCAR and the FBI for acting swiftly and treating this as a racial threat. I think we’ll gladly take a little embarrassment over what the alternatives could have been.”

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“Make no mistake, though some will try, this should not detract from the show of unity we had on Monday and the progress we’ve made as a sport to be a more welcoming environment for all,” Wallace added.

The FBI completed its investigation Tuesday and announced it is not filing any federal charges.

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The noose in question from the incident had been in the garage since as early as last fall, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp.

Wallace spoke to ESPN’s “First Take” on Wednesday to discuss the findings as well as his perspective of how things have unfolded.

“Are we hypersensitive to everything that’s going on in the world now? Absolutely,” Wallace told ESPN. “But if you were in my shoes — and I doubt anybody could walk in my shoes, especially at this moment — you would go down that route time and time again.”

“Yes, it was a garage pull for our stall at Talladega, but that was in the solid shape of a noose,” Wallace continued. “And when my guys seen that, when my crew member had seen that — who happened to be African American — he did his research first, and I was very proud of that. David Cropps — a guy I’ll stand by in any trenches, any day — walked up and down the garages to make sure he wasn’t overreacting. And when he seen that the other garage pulls were basically just a solid piece of rope, no knots in them, and we had a knot that was in the shape of a noose — yeah, that calls [for an investigation].”

Since the incident was reported and investigated, Wallace, who is the sport’s only top full-time Black driver, received an abundance of support from his team, competitors and the racing community, as well as on social media.

In a press call with media on Tuesday, NASCAR President Steve Phelps said the result of the investigation was “fantastic” news.

“There is no place in our sport for this type of racism and hatred,” Phelps said. “It’s not who we are as a sport.”

Phelps said that NASCAR will be continuing its own investigation to determine “why there was a rope fashioned into a noose.” He said the noose was present in the garage during a race in October. On Sunday, a member of Wallace’s crew found and reported it to his crew chief, who then brought it to the attention of NASCAR Cup Series Director Jay Fabian, he said.

“To be clear, we would do this again,” Phelps said. “The evidence that we had, it was clear that we needed to look into this.”

Some people have criticized NASCAR’s handling of the incident after the FBI concluded that the rope was a garage door pull rope, which some racing fans have said is common in the garages.

Others, including Wallace’s team, Richard Petty Motorsports, have responded that it was better to treat the incident as a threat and deal with the backlash.

 

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The team behind Wallace and his 43 Chevrolet have been supportive of his efforts to stand up for social change in the sport.

He has been a leading voice in the sport amid calls for justice following the death of George Floyd and ran a Black Lives Matter paint scheme on his own car at the Martinsville Speedway in Virginia two weeks ago.

Wallace also helped push NASCAR to ban the Confederate Flag from all events and races and celebrated the sport for enacting real change.

“I said a couple weeks ago, that something changed inside me to be an activist. My mother said, ‘Did you ever believe you would be an activist?’ I said, ‘No, not really.’ But I just felt in my heart that I needed to step up and be a leader in the forefront,” Wallace said Tuesday on “The View.” “These times kind of bring back that positive light of love and passion and solidarity and unity, to unite together and show that love is way stronger than hate.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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