The Black Plight Series
How They Lost Their Lives
Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd are the latest examples of the black plight in the United States. All were unjustly killed at the hands of white men or police officers, and Americans everywhere have fiercely reacted, via social media and in the streets of cities across the nation.
In the Black Plight Series, we will examine the lives and deaths of Arbery, Taylor and Floyd, the legal response to their killers, and how their demises have impacted the nation as a whole.
In Part IV, we will take a closer look at the circumstances of Arbery, Taylor and Floyd’s deaths.
Ahmaud Was Killed While Jogging
On Feb. 23, Ahmaud Arbery went for his usual jog in the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, Georgia. It had become a ritual for him to stay in shape by running through the suburban area.
On that day, Gregory McMichael – a white resident – saw Arbery running past. Recently, there have been a number of break-ins in the area, and McMichael decided that Arbery fit the description of the suspect in those break-ins. He summoned his son, Travis, to come outside.
Gregory and Travis fetched two firearms – a .357 Magnum and a shotgun – and pursued Arbery in their white pickup truck, along with William Bryan, a third white man that joined the pursuit of Arbery in a separate car.
The McMichaels yelled to Arbery that they wanted to talk before pulling up alongside him. Travis grabbed the shotgun and got out of the vehicle.
Bryan begins to record the interaction between Travis and Arbery on his cel phone, but parts of the altercation are not caught on camera. There are separate reports as to what happened. One report says that Arbery and Travis began to fight over the shotgun before Travis shoots and kills Arbery. Another account says that Travis fired the gun before the two men begin to tussle.
Regardless, there are three gunshots heard and at the end of the video, Travis is shown shooting Arbery in the chest at point-blank range, at which point Arbery falls to the ground. The video then cuts off.
According to Bryan, Travis uttered the n-word after shooting Arbery.
Arbery, who was unarmed, died at the scene. He was 25.
Two days after the video was released, the McMichaels were arrested – 74 days after the actual shooting. Bryan was arrested two weeks later.
Breonna Was Killed in Her Own Apartment
On March 13, just shy of three weeks since Arbery’s murder, Breonna Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were resting in bed when three white police officers from the Louisville Metro Police Department arrived at the door of Taylor’s apartment at 12:30 a.m.
The officers had obtained a no-knock search warrant from a judge and they suspected that a drug dealer was using the apartment to pick up packages.
Despite having a “no-knock” search warrant, the officers claimed that they knocked on the door and announced themselves, which Walker and Taylor’s neighbors say is false.
According to reports, Taylor heard a loud banging at the door and yelled out, “Who is it?”
The officers – who were in plainclothes – then used a battering-ram to enter through the front door, and Walker, believing that intruders were attempting to break-in, grabbed his gun and shot at the intruders.
Walker was legally licensed to carry a firearm.
After Walker hit one of the officers in the leg, the officers began to fire back and shot more than 20 rounds into the apartment.
Taylor was shot at least eight times in her bed. She was pronounced dead at the scene. She was 26.
No drugs were found in the apartment and the two men that the officers suspected of gathering packages from the apartment were already in custody, which they claim they were unaware of.
All three officers – Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove – were placed on administrative reassignment. They have not been arrested or charged with any crimes.
George Was Killed for Using a Counterfeit $20 Bill
On May 25, less than three months after Taylor’s death at the hands of police, George Floyd walked into a convenience store in Minneapolis called Cup Foods. He bought cigarettes with a $20 bill, left the store and got in the driver’s seat of an SUV parked nearby.
Two Cup Foods employees believed that Floyd used a counterfeit bill and approached him in the car, asking him to return the cigarettes. Floyd refused and the employees called the police. They told the cops that Floyd was intoxicated and used fake money.
Two cops arrived – J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane – and pulled Floyd from his vehicle, handcuffing him before walking him across the street to put him in the backseat of their police vehicle.
Floyd told the officers he was claustrophobic and would not be able to breathe in the backseat of the car. At this point, two more officers arrived – Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao.
After a brief struggle to get Floyd into the police vehicle, Chauvin pulled Floyd out of the car and he fell onto his stomach in the street. Chauvin then began to lean his knee on Floyd’s neck.
Despite Floyd’s pleas of “I can’t breathe,” “Mama,” and “Please” – all of which was caught on video – Chauvin did not move his knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
After Floyd stopped pleading for his life and became unresponsive, Chauvin left his knee on Floyd’s neck for 2 minutes and 53 seconds.
A little over an hour later, Floyd was pronounced dead at the Hennepin County Medical Center. He was a 46-year old father of five.
After the video became public the next day, all four officers were fired and Chauvin was arrested. He was charged with third-degree murder, a charge that has since been revised to second-degree murder.
Prior to the incident, 18 complaints had been filed against Chauvin during his time in law enforcement, only two of which resulted in disciplinary action. Thao had six complaints lodged against him, none of which he was disciplined for.
In Part V of The Black Plight Series, we will examine the legal response to Arbery, Taylor and Floyd’s death.