May 8, 2020
Transcript: Georgia Bureau of Investigation Arrests & Killing of Ahmaud Arbery
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation gave updates today on the arrests involved in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. Read the full transcript of their statement from today.
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Vic Reynolds: (00:01)
All right. Good morning everybody. I know we’re maybe a few minutes early, but I know you’ve got a lot on your plate today, so we’ll go ahead and get started. First of all, thank you for coming. I’m Vic Reynolds. I’m the director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. I know you’ve got a lot on your plate and a lot of places to go, so I’ll be relatively brief. I want to make just a few comments and then we’ll certainly entertain some questions on things that we might can answer today.
Vic Reynolds: (00:24)
As all of you are aware by now, yesterday evening, agents from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation effectuated an arrest on two individuals, Greg and Travis McMichaels, charging them with both felony murder and aggravated assault in regards to the killing of Ahmad Aubrey back in February of 2020 here in Glen County. We became involved in this case late Tuesday evening, approximately 9:30 or so when we were formally requested to get involved and we hit the ground running pretty hard Wednesday morning, and I’ll talk a little bit about what the agents did in a moment, but I did want to take a few minutes today and give some appreciation to some folks and agencies that have been involved in this and have helped us.
Vic Reynolds: (01:11)
First of all, we want to of course extend our deepest condolences to the Aubrey family. We also want to take a moment to thank them. One of the last things you want to do in a circumstance of this nature on a case certainly that’s been around for a period of time, is to ask anybody, particularly a victim’s family, for patience. It’s difficult to do, but they were gracious in extending that patience to us, and we appreciate that on behalf of the bureau. I also want to take a moment to I think the community of Brunswick and Glen County for doing the same thing. We realize that emotions have run very high here for a period of time, and still are to a great extent and we understand that and we respect that.
Vic Reynolds: (01:53)
When I spoke from the GBI headquarters Wednesday morning, I also extended a request to this community asking them for some patience and understanding to us as we became involved in the investigation. And they certainly have done that and I can’t begin to tell you how much our agents, how much our agency, and I know I speak on behalf of the governor, how much he appreciates it as well, the graciousness and patience extended to us by a community that’s emotionally worn pretty thin right now. So I appreciate what they’ve done for us.
Vic Reynolds: (02:29)
I also want to take a moment to thank the district attorney assigned to this case. Mr. Durden, Appreciate his assistance throughout our investigation to this point, thanking him for being available and for answering legal questions on our behalf. I want to thank the Glenn County Sheriff’s Department as well. They were cooperative with us, and extended some assistance yesterday during the effectuation of the arrest. We certainly appreciate Sheriff Jump in his involvement. I also want to take a moment to thank some of the people behind and some of the people who are out in the audience today, and that’s the agents of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation who had been involved in this case. Again, giving you just a brief timeline. We were officially requested to become involved late Tuesday evening when Mr. Durden and I had a conversation, probably about 9:30 or so that evening. He graciously requested us to come in and we immediately accepted that request.
Vic Reynolds: (03:24)
I advised him that we would hit the ground running very hard Wednesday morning, so about 10 o’clock Tuesday night I relayed that request down the chain of command to the deputy director of investigations, Scott Dutton, who is standing up here with me to my left, and then Deputy Director Dutton began putting together a team to begin the investigation, from our perspective, early Wednesday morning. Sometime during the morning hours of Wednesday, we were able to secure our hands on the file, the investigative file, which had been done previously and the agents spent the rest of that day pouring through that file to make sure they understood what had been done in the case and what they thought needed to be done in the case, reviewing interviews and things of that nature. And they spent the remainder of Wednesday until very, very late Wednesday night doing just that.
Vic Reynolds: (04:17)
They took a short break of a few hours to get some sleep and then began early Thursday morning, yesterday morning, running a plan of operation and what they thought needed to be done regarding the remainder of the investigation. They hit that pavement hard yesterday doing neighborhood canvases, talking to other individuals who had already been spoken to some individuals who had not. And then after the course of that investigation yesterday about 5:00 PM we had a command staff level conference call with a boots on the ground agents here in Glen County. And we were advised at the command staff conference call that they had established, the facts had established a sufficient probable cause to seek arrest warrants against both Greg and Travis McMichael for felony murder and aggravated assault. That was certainly agreed to by the command staff individuals, including all the way up to and including myself.
Vic Reynolds: (05:14)
Those agents then immediately yesterday evening, sometime around the six o’clock hour or so, begin securing the warrants through the assistance of a Spear Court judge in the Glenn County area. Those warrants were secured. They came back to their command center staff and began putting together a plan of operation to effectuate the arrest at about 7:45. That was in fact done yesterday evening, without any incident, no one was hurt and neither the defendants nor any of the agents, and so that was done properly and safely and we’re very thankful of that. Those individuals were then turned over to the Glenn County Sheriff’s Department and have been placed in custody at that particular jail. So that’s where we’re at today. Before I take any questions, I certainly understand there is some concern, there’s some questions by the community, by folks around the state, probably folks around the nation.
Vic Reynolds: (06:06)
Is there anyone else going to be charged in this case? I will tell you that this case is an active ongoing investigation. In fact, once this press conference breaks today, these agents behind me and the agents and the crowd who are here today to observe will continue their investigation. They’re staying in this community. They’re going to continue to work it and they’re going to go wherever the facts take them. If in fact the facts take them to make another arrest in this case, then they will do that. If the facts do not, then they won’t. But I will tell you categorically that it’s still an open active investigation. We are continuing to look at all the evidence. They’re continuing to do things that haven’t been done yet and we’ll plan on doing that the rest of the time it takes before they make some decision or conclusion, whether or not probable cause exists to arrest anyone else. I thank you for allowing me to make those comments. I’ll take any questions. I saw your hand first.
Speaker 2: (07:01)
How far had the local investigation got before you guys get your hands on it?
Vic Reynolds: (07:05)
It had gotten to a good point. my understanding and speaking to my folks is that it was a good investigation. It was a thorough investigation. That doesn’t mean there were some things that we believe need to be done that hadn’t been done. And I don’t mean that in a disrespectful sense to the people who worked it. But you could get 10 agencies to work a case, they may work at 10 different ways and still arrive at the same place. So there were some things that that needed to … We thought needed to be done that were done yesterday. There’s some things that will continue to be done that perhaps haven’t been done. We’ll go back and review things that have been done to make sure they don’t need to be tightened up in any fashion. But there’s no complaining by my folks about what has been done to this point. Yes?
Anne Russo: (07:46)
Sir, Anne Russo with Action News Jacks. What did the GDI see during their investigation that the Waycross PD didn’t see during their two months with this case that led you guys to make an arrest?
Vic Reynolds: (07:59)
I can’t answer what another agency did or didn’t see, but I can tell you that, based on our involvement in this case, considering the fact that we hit the ground running Wednesday morning and within 36 hours we had secured warrants for two individuals for felony murder, I think that speaks volumes for itself and that the probable cause was clear to our agents pretty quickly.
Anne Russo: (08:22)
Should the DA lose their job over this?
Vic Reynolds: (08:24)
No, I’m not going to comment on that. I mean, all I can do is tell you when we became involved in this case, we did what we thought we were supposed to do. I’m very confident in our investigation. I’m confident in our continuing … I’m not comfortable speaking about any other-
Speaker 4: (08:39)
Director Reynolds, [inaudible 00:08:42]. Waycross DA blamed all this uproar on a local rabble rouser. He also suggested that the citizens arrest and the other laws were followed here. Can you just explain why you guys came to such a wildly different conclusion someone who had the case for so long, and what seems so obvious in this case for you guys?
Vic Reynolds: (08:58)
Again, I can’t speak on what anyone else sees or doesn’t see about a case, but I will tell you that we base our decisions on two things. One are facts and the other is the law. Whatever the facts are, we apply the law to it. If the law says what the facts are is a felony murder, then we take the warrants for it. I’m very comfortable in telling you that there’s more than sufficient probable cause in this case for felony murder.
Speaker 5: (09:20)
[inaudible 00:09:20], sir?
Vic Reynolds: (09:22)
Speaker 5: (09:22)
How important is the video?
Vic Reynolds: (09:24)
Well it’s like any other piece … Sure. It’s certainly a very important piece of evidence. Any time you can see what happens at a scene, then it plays an important role in decision making. Is it the only piece of evidence? Is it the only thing in this case? No, but is it important? Absolutely.
Speaker 5: (09:40)
Did the public leak of the video have-
Speaker 6: (09:43)
So much has transpired since that video has been released.
Vic Reynolds: (09:45)
I’m sorry, say that one more time.
Speaker 6: (09:47)
So much has happened, transpired since that video has been released. 10 weeks, nothing seems to happen. The video comes up and within days there’s two arrests.
Vic Reynolds: (09:57)
Yeah, well I can only tell you what happened since Tuesday at 9:30 when we got involved. The video was already out. We saw it, we reviewed the rest of the file and we made the arrest.
Speaker 6: (10:08)
Th media one, the version that is out in the media, is that the same video that you have and have been studying?
Vic Reynolds: (10:18)
To my knowledge it’s the same video. Yes sir.
Speaker 6: (10:20)
Mr. Williams, what will happen to him?
Vic Reynolds: (10:22)
Speaker 6: (10:23)
Vic Reynolds: (10:24)
Don’t know yet. We’re going to go wherever the evidence takes us. Let’s say hypothetically if we believe tomorrow or in a week or three weeks there’s probable cause for an arrest and we’ll do it. If we don’t believe there is, then we won’t. I don’t mean to be that simplistic or that flippant, but that’s the way it is with us. We base our decisions strictly on facts and evidence and that’s exactly what we’ll do in this case.
Speaker 7: (10:45)
Are you investigating the person who shot that video?
Vic Reynolds: (10:52)
We’re investigating everybody involved in the case, including the individual who shot the video. Yes ma’am.
Speaker 8: (10:57)
Director, the attorney claimed that-
Speaker 9: (10:59)
Without this video, would these two men be free right now?
Vic Reynolds: (11:03)
I don’t know. I can’t comment on that. I can only tell you that when we got involved in the case, we look at what’s available to us. If the video wasn’t available to us, then we’d look at everything else. Whether or not we’d be at a point of probable cause, I don’t know.
Speaker 9: (11:16)
Would you guys be involved if it weren’t for this video that surfaced this week on social media?
Vic Reynolds: (11:21)
I don’t know. We only become involved … The one thing about our agency, we can only statutorily become involved when we’re asked to become involved.We don’t work off of a timeline. In a perfect world, would we prefer to have been asked to become involved in February? Of course, but sometimes it isn’t a perfect world, so we have to deal with the situation as it’s placed in front of us. Yes sir?
Speaker 10: (11:48)
When you say let’s continue investigating, [inaudible 00:11:49]?
Vic Reynolds: (11:52)
It will only expand to what’s relevant to this murder investigation. We’ve been asked to conduct a murder investigation. That’s what we’re conducting. Yes?
Speaker 11: (11:59)
Director, you said … Ahmad’s mother has said [inaudible 00:12:02] and that the homeowner was the one that confronted him and shot him. That’s not the case. You can see that from the video. Are you looking into the Wayne County investigators in your investigation and whether or not they were presenting the accurate information to parents and whether or not they were doing a thorough investigation?
Vic Reynolds: (12:28)
Yeah. The only way I can answer that is to tell you that anything that’s relevant to the murder investigation we’re doing, we will look at. If it’s relevant to the murder investigation, which is what we’ve been asked to do and is what we’re doing, then we’ll look at it. If it isn’t relevant to that issue, then we won’t.
Speaker 12: (12:46)
Are you concerned that you became involved in the case so late and that it took more than 10 weeks for an arrest to be made? Are you frustrated by the delay, the 10 week delay from when this happened and when the arrest was made?
Vic Reynolds: (12:59)
Well, yeah. Again, I’ll preface it by saying what I said a moment ago. The way we look at cases, if we can become involved in a case when they’re still an active crime scene, when something just happened, that’s always better for my people. It always is, because we’re not reinventing the wheel. We’re not depending on what someone else has done. We’re starting with what we do from the beginning. And so in a perfect situation, that’s the best way to get the GBI involved. But again, if I told you this was the first time we ever came in late in the case, it wouldn’t be true. It’s happened before. And so my folks I think have done a tremendous job considering when they got involved, and the time they got involved to do what they’ve done to this point. But I would be foolish to tell you that things wouldn’t be better for us as an agency if we didn’t get involved very, very early in a case, that’s a … Yes.
Speaker 13: (13:55)
Director Reynolds, the attorney that apparently leaked the video said that it’s a full unedited video. And have you been able to confirm that? And also is it the only video that your office has seen of the shooting?
Vic Reynolds: (14:09)
Well, I’m not comfortable talking about a whole lot more evidence about the underlying case at this point because we’re not through with the investigation. We’ve obviously observed the video that we have. Whether or not there are any additional videos, I don’t know of any, but regarding the link, the editing, anything of that nature. We have our experts looking at it and we’ll make that decision down the road. Right now I’m not comfortable speaking on that. Yeah?
Speaker 14: (14:32)
Speaker 15: (14:49)
While I was coming over, I missed part of that question.
Speaker 14: (14:50)
Just you will be the one prosecuting this, right?
Speaker 15: (14:50)
Speaker 14: (14:51)
Laying on the charges, [inaudible 00:14:58].
Speaker 15: (14:59)
Well of course the charges that have been secured against the defendants at this point, that was of course arrived at through me and so forth, myself and the GBI. My investigator has been working on the case also so … But, yes, to answer your question, yes I will be the one prosecuting the case. Let me, if I might, follow up on a question that was asked earlier, and they had just … A piece I guess responding to and that is in a perfect world, earlier your involvement of course, the better. Okay? As you all probably know from my prior press release, I was only asked to come into the case on April 14, I believe it was. So I didn’t get the case until then either. So we take what we’re given and we go from there and go back and look at what has been done and then go ahead forward.
Speaker 15: (16:13)
Which, as you noticed has led up to these arrests last evening. I will say, and I believe it was the only question, as far as the GBIs involvement and so forth. I will say this. That there were [inaudible 00:16:34]. So huge developments in the case, okay? And the GBI and my thanks to the GBI for their involvement and their response and helping me. Okay? And that there was some new developments, and I can’t go into at this time, but they really did, as Director Reynolds, said, they got over real quick and helped me arrive at my decision as far as my capacity and advising the law enforcement in this case. Yes ma’am?
Speaker 7: (17:19)
The previous DID at Barnhill had said that he felt that these men’s actions were protected by both the stand your ground, no need retreat law and the idea of citizens arrest. Does that that argument seem valid?
Speaker 15: (17:36)
When we take this case to grand jury, and if it’s [inaudible 00:17:42], and we expect it will, perhaps to go to a trial, here for [inaudible 00:17:47]. Okay? The legal principles will be explained by the judge. Okay? What someone says the applicable law is, is an opinion. Okay? So the law will come from the court. Okay?
Speaker 5: (18:05)
Mr. Durden, how would you describe the atmosphere over the past two days in terms of the level of public pressure, quite frankly, that you may or may not have felt to bring these charges?
Speaker 15: (18:16)
Well, public opinion is always from one side or another, always going to be there. Okay? We don’t let that influence the decision. Okay? We can’t be … We can’t just make a snap decision. Right? So I understand the public opinion out there. I understand it [inaudible 00:18:43] and I will echo something that the director said in extending, I have done this, and my staff at my office has done this, in our condolences to Mr. Aubrey’s mother and family. So we have made the decision based on what we feel like is the applicable law, and the interpretation of the evidence that has been uncovered here. So if that answers your question. Louis, I believe you had one? I apologize, the sun’s kind of-
Speaker 10: (19:28)
That’s okay. Are you concerned about the amount of publicity this case received and will the change of venue possibly take place when it gets to the court system?
Speaker 15: (19:38)
Louis, that would be a prejudgment at this point and that depends on a lot of things, and the judge would be the final officer of that. Okay? And I can’t really answer, not because I don’t want to, I’m just saying we’re not through that part yet.
Speaker 16: (20:02)
You had spoken on Tuesday that while you felt the evidence warranted sending this on for considered criminal charges with a grand jury, that that’s not likely to happen until June because of COVID-19. The next day GBI is called in at your request. Was that an effort to maybe get something moving quicker, maybe an arrest quicker?
Speaker 15: (20:26)
No, no. Those are two separate things. The June 12th is directly from the Georgia Supreme Court. The other things have to do with the evidence and some matters that I requested that the GBI [inaudible 00:20:45] and that they have done. I will take just a minute, and that’s about as far as I can go as far as getting into the case. I told Vic I was going to brief, and sometimes, as we always are, maybe we’re not. But I want to thank one other group that’s the prosecuting attorneys council at LAFA. They have given me a great deal of help as far as legal advice and so forth in the case, and I just want to recognize that organization also, and thank you for patience.
Speaker 8: (21:21)
One more question, one more question. Director Reynolds, you are former prosecutor yourself. Can you talk [inaudible 00:21:31]?
Vic Reynolds: (21:35)
Well, sometimes I have to make sure I’m taking off my former prosecutors hat and putting on the investigator’s hat. But the only thing I can tell you that, from the GBI’s, perspective and I kind of entertained both your question and the question of this gentleman a moment ago, I can tell you without any hesitation that regardless of the amount of social media, regardless of the amount of the mainstream media attention, regardless of the emotion, regardless of a supposed timeline, none of that matters to the GBI. It doesn’t matter who the person is. It doesn’t matter who the victim is. It doesn’t matter who potential defendants are. All that matters is what the facts tell us, and so when we get into any case, certainly a case of this nature, our goal, first of all, is to see and find, number one, what are the facts?
Vic Reynolds: (22:27)
Then once we find those facts, number two we apply the law to those facts. In this case, doing that relatively quick because again, some of the investigation, a good portion of it was already done. We applied the law to the facts in this case and came up pretty quickly with a solid belief that there is sufficient probable cause to charge the McMichaels with felony murder and aggravated assault. I can tell you that if we didn’t believe it, we wouldn’t have arrested them. If we believe it, then we’re going to put the bracelets on him and that’s exactly what we did yesterday evening, and so we’re … That’s the case when it is handed over to Mr. Durden for ultimate prosecution will be complete. It will be done and every stone will be turned over. I promise you.
Speaker 7: (23:09)
Vic Reynolds: (23:13)
There’s no hate crime in Georgia. There isn’t. It’s one of, I think, four or five States left in the union that doesn’t have a hate crime. So that would not be in effect.
Speaker 7: (23:22)
[crosstalk 00:23:22] when their hearing is?
Vic Reynolds: (23:24)
I don’t know. I think with the emergency order in the court system, that’s going to be something that the lawyers have to deal with. The GBI won’t be involved in setting hearings. That’ll be done through the lawyers. I don’t know if the gentlemen have counsel or not, but once they do, that’ll be secured then. And thank you all. I appreciate you so much. Thank you. So is that good, Allie? All right. Thank you all. [crosstalk 00:23:56].