Closely Observed Construction Sites
Ilana Mercer digs deep
“Nothing unusual; its [sic] my jogging routine,” writes a Twitter user. His sarcastic words are appended to a doctored image of joggers running through a construction site, while Ahmaud Arbery loiters in the background. The Twitter lampoon is of the young black man, shot to death by Travis McMichael and father Gregory McMichael, in Satilla Shores, a community near Brunswick, Georgia. The incident occurred on Feb. 23, 2020.
Prior to the shooting, as surveillance footage suggests, the deceased had wandered onto an open construction site, looked it over, but removed nothing from it. The image is “funny”—only if you were not killed on your jog (real or not), ostensibly because you took a suspicious detour. Trespass, innocent or suspicious, does not warrant a death sentence.
“He’s been caught on camera a bunch at night. It’s kind of an ongoing thing,” said an anonymous caller to the 9-1-1 dispatcher, minutes before the fatal shooting. The caller, it now transpires, was referring to surveillance footage dating back to Feb. 11, on which a younger, more slender black male can be seen strolling on the same property. Fast forward to the 23rd, and the dispatcher is quizzing the caller as to whether a break-in was underway. “I just need to know what he was doing wrong. Was he just on the premises and not supposed to be?” That indeed seemed to be the case.
It so happens that I’m a runner who … stops at open construction sites. My bad. But they’re interesting. Especially those earthquake constraints. It’s not incorrect to state that the guy who lumbers behind me (yes, a possible relative) might have wandered into one or two such structures. He’s an engineer. They—guys in general—love construction sites. It’s a hairy-forearm relic. Anyhow, given the fuss, I’ll plead the Fifth.
Black and White, Americans peer at each other from behind parapets of suspicion. Hopelessly bifurcated, some condemn Ahmaud Arbery; others have canonized him. So ingrained are these positions that parties fail to consider one of Freud’s more mordant observations. When quizzed about his incessant cigar smoking, Freud humorously chose to sidestep what was, according to the very theory he had invented, a manifestation of his own oral fixation. He said: “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”
Arbery was training to become an electrician. Perhaps he was simply curious about the wiring and the finishes, like myself and my, err, alleged spouse. In interviews with the press, Larry English—he owns the house being built—claimed that “the structure was not burgled.” He had never filed a police report, alleging stolen property or theft from his properties.
Certainly, any analysis of a criminal case must proceed from the facts of the case, on the day of the shooting. It should not proceed from assumptions about the race of any of the participants. This is accomplished by a video of the shooting that led to the arrest of the McMichaels. It is described quite accurately by Court TV:
“The leaked video shows a black man running at a jogging pace. The truck is stopped in the road ahead of him, with one of the white men standing in the pickup’s bed and the other beside the open driver’s side door. The running man attempts to pass the pickup on the passenger side, moving just beyond the truck, briefly outside the camera’s view. A gunshot sounds, and the video shows the runner grappling with a man over what appears to be a shotgun or rifle. A second shot can be heard, and the runner can be seen punching the man. A third shot is fired at point-blank range. The runner staggers a few feet and falls face down.”
Missing from the visual field is when Ahmaud Arbery tries to pass the pick-up on the right and might somehow have been prevented from so doing. Less convincing is the account given by George E. Barnhill, district attorney of Waycross judicial circuit:
“Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael, and Bryan William were following, in pursuit of a burglary suspect, with solid, first-hand probable cause, in their neighborhood, and asking/telling him to stop. It appears their intent was to stop and hold this criminal suspect until law enforcement arrived. Under Georgia Law this is perfectly legal.”
Notably, the D.A.’s version omits that there was no evidence or report of a crime committed on that day. The call to 9-1-1, aforementioned, underscores that a crime was not in progress and none had been committed, all predicates for a citizen’s arrest, under Georgia Law. Did the few minutes Arbery spent on the open lot amount to criminal trespass, a misdemeanor? It honestly doesn’t appear so.
Police reports have it that the McMichaels, prompted by calls from a neighbor that a suspect in neighborhood burglaries had been spotted, grabbed a long gun and a .357 magnum handgun and got into their pickup. (I’m shooting a Smith & Wesson 686P .357 4″ in the pic. It’ll drop a bear.) Police further detail how the men in the truck chased Ahmaud Arbery, and attempted to “cut him off,” while the runner dodged around them and tried to sprint away. Eventually, the McMichaels got ahead of Arbery and positioned their truck to block his path. The deadly confrontation then ensued.
At 17 minutes and 41 seconds into one of his interminably long broadcasts, Stefan Molyneux asserts—for he fails to argue this aspect of his case—that Ahmaud Arbery wrestled with his killer “in order to kill Travis and Greg McMichael. That’s why you take people’s guns,” asserted Molyneux. Molyneux’s logic is manifestly faulty. Never presume to know what’s in the head of another. There is more than one reason for attempting to remove another’s rifle in a scuffle. Given the detailed police report on the hunter-prey dynamic that might have developed while he was being chased and cornered, Arbery’s lunge for the long gun could have been the consequence of situational panic.
Much more astute about the deadly confluence of events that led to an unnecessary death is one of my Gab readers:
“Ilana, you may count me as one of your biggest fans but you’ve got to know that Arbery was not shot as punishment [for trespassing]. He was shot because he punched a man and tried to take his weapon. Running directly into an armed person made a bad outcome more likely, but I doubt it was intentional … [Nor] does [it look] like the killing was premeditated. It happened so quickly when the paths of these people collided and the struggle ensued.”
“Not premeditated,” but unnecessary, as the evidence suggests.
Ilana Mercer has been writing a weekly, paleolibertarian column since 1999. She’s the author of Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America From Post-Apartheid South Africa (2011) & The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed” (June, 2016). She’s on Twitter, Facebook & Gab. Latest on YouTube