Ahmaud Arbery’s mom honored as Georgia overhauls citizen’s arrest law

Wanda Cooper-Jones was at the Capitol Monday when Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation generated by her son's murder.

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Wanda Cooper-Jones was in attendance at a ceremony Monday at the Georgia State Capitol, where Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation that will no longer allow most residents to arrest people they believe have committed a crime.

“Today we are replacing a Civil War-era law ripe for abuse with language that balances the sacred right to self-defense of a person’s property with our shared responsibility to root out injustice and set our state on a better path forward,” Kemp said in Atlanta.

Wanda Cooper-Jones, mother of Ahmaud Arbery, talks with people after a February candlelight vigil for Arbery at New Springfield Baptist Church in Waynesboro, Georgia. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

“Today, in honor of Ahmaud’s memory,” said the governor, “we commit to taking this step forward together.”

Kemp applauded Cooper-Jones, who spoke at the event. “Unfortunately, Ahmaud had to lose his life,” she said. “but the change that has been implemented since we lost him shows my family that he didn’t lose his life in vain.”

“I didn’t really think we’d get this type of change within this short time period,” she said. “I’m shocked but thankful.”

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Cooper-Jones said Monday it was difficult spending a second Mother’s Day without her son.

Arbery was killed in February of 2020 when three men attempted to detain him while he was running in Satilla Shores, Georgia. William Bryant, Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, have been charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment by the state of Georgia.

They have also been indicted on federal hate crimes.

Georgia is the first of the 50 states to remove a citizen’s arrest law from its books. Similar amendments have been proposed in South Carolina and New York.

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The new law allows employees at a business, people doing business on someone else’s property, security officers, private investigators and inspectors at truck scales to detain persons suspected of crimes. It also allows police officers to arrest people outside of their jurisdictions. However, the law states that law enforcement must be contacted within a “reasonable amount of time” or to release them.

Previously, the law stated that any citizen of Georgia could arrest anyone suspected of a crime if it was “committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge” or “upon reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion.”

The former law is likely to be referenced in the upcoming trial of the three accused of killing Arbery. Jury selection for that trial begins in October.

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