‘We are thankful for justice’: Ahmaud Arbery’s mom says she ‘never gave up hope’ as all three of her son’s killers are found guilty of his murder

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Arbery's family and supporters are shown holding hands as they exit the courthouse (Pictured Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery's mother, Reverend Al Sharpton, Arbery's father, Marcus Arbery, and attorney Ben Crump)
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On Wednesday night Ahmaud Arbery’s mother said that she is ‘thankful’ for justice after all three defendants were found guilty of murdering her son in February 2020. 

Gunman Travis McMichael was found guilty on the charge of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony.

His father, Gregory McMichael, was found guilty of felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony.

Neighbor William ‘Roddie’ Bryan was found guilty of felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony. 

When the first verdict was read Arbrey’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, sobbed aloud, putting her head to her chest as she wept, while civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton gripped her hand. 

‘This is the second Thanksgiving without Ahmaud,’ she told CNN.

‘But at the same time, the first with justice for Ahmaud.

‘So I take tomorrow as a very thankful day, and I give all praises to God.’ 

On the day of Arbery’s killing which was the 23rd of February 2020, Gregory, 65, and Travis, 35, grabbed guns and jumped in a pickup truck to pursue 25-year-old Ahmaud after seeing him running in the coastal suburb of Satilla Shores – as they claimed to believe he was responsible for break-ins in their neighborhood. 

Neighbor Bryan, 52, joined the pursuit in his own pickup and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery. 

On Wednesday evening, the family was seen raising a glass in a private home to Arbery, and to finally getting justice. 

Cooper-Jones said she hoped the verdict would encourage other parents whose children had been murdered to keep fighting for justice.

‘I often think of mothers like Breonna Taylor’s mom, Tamika Palmer,’ said Cooper-Jones.

‘We have Atatiana Jefferson over in Dallas, Texas – she’s getting ready to go to trial.

‘But a lot of these families don’t get justice.

‘And my message to them is: don’t give up. Keep pushing, keep fighting.’

Cooper-Jones said that the family waited a long time for justice, noting that the authorities only arrested the McMichaels and Bryan after video footage emerged.

She said it was ‘huge’ to have her son’s killers finally convicted. 

My prayers have been answered,’ she said.

‘Early in the case, in 2020, we were 74 days without an arrest.

‘To hear that the accused were actually found guilty was huge.

‘We finally got the justice for Ahmaud that he deserved back in 2020.’

Asked what she wanted people to know about her son, she replied: ‘Ahmaud was love.

‘Ahmaud was a kind young man, and he definitely did not deserve to lose his life in the way he did.’ 

As McMichael’s first guilty verdict was read out, Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery, yelled out ‘Woohoo!,’ briefly delaying the reading of the other verdicts as he was removed from the courtroom. 

McMichael’s attorney, Jason Sheffield, said he is planning to appeal the guilty verdict, adding that this is a very hard day for Travis and his father, Gregory McMichael, who was also convicted of murder. 

‘I can tell you honestly, these men are sorry for what happened to Ahmaud Arbery,’ said Sheffield. 

‘They are sorry he’s dead. They are sorry for the tragedy that happened because of the choices they made to go out there and try to stop him.’ 

The conviction carries a minimum sentence of life in prison. It is up to the judge to decide whether that comes with or without the possibility of parole, and he has not set a date for sentencing. 

He was found not guilty of malice murder and one count each of felony murder and aggravated assault.

Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, said he was planning to file a motion for a new trial next week for his client. 

It’s been a long fight, it’s been a hard fight, but God is good,’ Cooper-Jones told reporters outside the courthouse.

‘To tell you the truth I never saw this day back in 2020. I never thought this day would come but God is good. I just wanted to tell everybody thank you, thank you, for those who marched, those who prayed. Thank you God.

Adopting her son’s nickname since boyhood, she added: ‘You know him as Ahmaud, I know him as Quez, he will now rest in peace. ‘

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Marcus Arbery in a civil proceeding, said in a statement to ‘Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. After nearly two years of pain, suffering, and wondering if Ahmaud’s killers would be held to account, the Arbery family finally has some justice. 

‘Nothing will bring back Ahmaud, but his family will have some peace knowing the men who killed him will remain behind bars and can never inflict their brand of evil on another innocent soul. While today is not one for celebration, it is one for reflection.’

Travis McMichael, looking red-faced, turned to leave the courtroom and mouthed ‘love you’ to his mother, Leigh.

I’m floored, floored with a capital ‘F,” Laura Hogue, one of Gregory McMichael’s lawyers, said in the courtroom.

After the verdicts were read out, Arbery’s family watched the verdicts from an overflow room beside the court, saying they ‘finally have some justice’. They clapped and cried out as jurors returned their verdicts before the trio were remanded in custody ahead of sentencing.

Yvon Arbery, 57, the deceased’s aunt told ‘It’s just so much joy. I feel so much satisfaction, thank you God. This is going to bring big change to Brunswick, Georgia and the rest of the country. It will show everybody know that you cannot have this hatred in your heart and you cannot get away with this anymore.’ 

Marcus Arbery said he hoped the verdict would prove a healing moment for a bitterly divided America.

‘Ya’ll pulled together and worked this thing. That’s what it’s all about. We conquered that lynch mob,’ he told the crowd, to cheers and applause.

He added: ‘For real all lives matter, not just blacks. We don’t want to see nobody go through this. I don’t want to see no daddy watch their kid get shot down like that day.

‘It’s all our problem. Let’s keep fighting. Let’s keep doing it and making this place a better place for all human beings. Love everybody. All human beings need to be treated equally. Today is a good day.’ 

All large crowd is shown cheering after they learn all three men charged in Ahmaud Arbery's murder had been convicted

Outside the courthouse, a crowd of more than 100 people huddled around a loudspeaker in hushed silence to hear proceedings over a livestream.

A huge roar erupted as each guilty verdict rang out, with bystanders raising their fists in solidarity with the dead black man.

‘Say his name! Enough is enough! Ahmaud Arbery!’ the crowd chanted.

After the verdicts were read they continued: ‘We got justice!’ 

Leah Baker, 52, a Brunswick resident, said: ‘I’m so thankful, I’m grateful – this is most definitely the right verdict.

Because of the legacy of slavery, of history, of the Trayvon Martin case, I was worried they would create enough doubt with the self defense thing. We are a small city and we have made nationwide history in the cause of black people and equality.’ 

Arbery was a former high school football star who was working at a truck washing company and at his his father’s landscaping business. He planned to go back to college, according to his family, before he was followed shot to death last year.

He was 25 at the time of his death and was on probation for minor previous incidents, but he was mostly remembered as a charismatic and kind person with an easy smile and infectious laughter by those who knew him.

‘Some students it’s hard to get mad at,’ said his former high school football coach Jason Vaughn, ‘because you love them so much.’ 

Arbery was enrolled at South Georgia Technical College for about a year-and-a-half after high school, but he dropped out due to financial difficulties, according to Reuters. 

President Joe Biden also issued a statement following the verdicts, saying Arbery’s killing was a ‘devastating reminder of how far we have to go in the fight for racial justice’ in America.

‘Mr. Arbery should be here today, celebrating the holidays with his mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, and his father, Marcus Arbery. Nothing can bring Mr. Arbery back to his family and to his community, but the verdict ensures that those who committed this horrible crime will be punished,’ Biden said.

‘While the guilty verdicts reflect our justice system doing its job, that alone is not enough. Instead, we must recommit ourselves to building a future of unity and shared strength, where no one fears violence because of the color of their skin.

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