ATLANTA (AP) – The mother of a black man who was persecuted and killed by white men who said they suspected him of a crime, says she was “grateful, very grateful” that Georgia passed the Civil Arrest Act of the time of Civil war has ended.

Wanda Cooper-Jones, the mother of Ahmaud Arbery, spoke Monday after Governor Brian Kemp signed House Bill 479, which states that bystanders in Georgia cannot be arrested if a crime is committed in their presence.

“I think signing this bill will make people think before taking action,” said Cooper-Jones. “Unfortunately we had to lose my son that way. If this law had come into force, I believe it would protect young men jogging on the street. “

The law is an ongoing response to Arbery’s death, which was videotaped by one of three men now charged with murder. The outcry over the shooting also prompted lawmakers to pass a new hate crime law in Georgia last year, more than 15 years after the state Supreme Court overturned an earlier law.

“This bill makes Georgia the first state in the country to lift its citizens’ arrest statue,” said Kemp, a Republican, before signing the measure. “Today we are replacing this civil war law, which is ripe for abuse, with language that embodies the sacred right to self-defense of person and property with our shared responsibility to eradicate injustice and move our state on a better path forward , brings into harmony. “

Those who had long pushed for repeal said the law was passed in 1863 to round up escaped slaves and was later used to justify lynching of African Americans. Some other states are also considering repealing such laws.

Arbery, then 25, was fatally shot while running through a neighborhood near Brunswick on the Georgia coast in February 2020. His 27th birthday would have been days ago, and Cooper Jones said she viewed the law as a birthday present for her son.

The father and son who persecuted Arbery – Greg and Travis McMichael – were not arrested or charged until the state took over the case more than two months after the shooting. A public prosecutor originally charged with the case had cited the Law on Arresting Georgian Citizens to argue that the shooting was justified. Lee Merritt, the family’s lawyer, said Arbery’s relatives continue to want this prosecutor to face criminal charges.

Defense attorneys said the McMichaels tracked Arbery suspected of being a burglar after security cameras previously recorded him entering a house under construction. They said Travis McMichael shot Arbery while fearful for his life when they were fighting over a shotgun.

The video of the fatal encounter was recorded by William “Roddie” Bryan, a neighbor who joined the chase. All three men are charged with murder. Prosecutors said Arbery did not steal anything and was only jogging when the McMichaels and Bryan were chasing him. You remain in jail without bail.

Issues related to the arrest of citizens could be raised in pre-trial hearings in the coming days.

Under the Repeal Act, people who are merely spectators or witnesses generally no longer have the right to arrest people. Lethal force cannot be used to arrest someone unless it is done to protect yourself, protect a home, or prevent a violent crime. The changes maintain Georgia’s “Stand your Ground” law, which states that a person who is threatened does not have to withdraw.

It still allows business workers to arrest people they believe have stolen, and restaurant workers can arrest people who try to leave without paying for a meal. It also allows licensed security guards and private investigators to arrest people.

An arrested person must be released along with their belongings if a police officer or sheriff’s deputy does not arrive within a reasonable time.


Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at