Wearing a blue t-shirt and a satin blue ribbon to honor her late son, Wanda Cooper-Jones sat alongside the Augusta Riverwalk to talk about life after losing her son one year ago to the date.
“When I laid Ahmaud to rest last year on the 29th of February, a part of me left with him,” Cooper-Jones told CBS46’s Hayley Mason as they sat on park benches.
Cooper-Jones mother says February 23rd will never be the same for her. It’s the day she lost her youngest son and also the day she birthed a new spirit of determination to fight for justice.
“The reason why I live every day is I live to get justice for Ahmaud, and I’m not going to stop. That’s my push,” she stated.
Earlier that morning, the grieving mother filed a federal civil lawsuit in her son’s case. It targets Glynn County, the Glynn County Police Department, former DA’s Jackie Johnson and George Barnhill, who initially took the case but did not seek charges, Gregory and Travis McMichael, William Bryan, a neighbor Diego Perez, Glynn County Officer Robert Rash and others.
“The fact that they had all the evidence they needed to make an arrest and failed to, it’s a constitutional claim,” said attorney Lee Merritt.
Merritt and Cooper-Jones allege the Glynn County Police Department conspired with the defendants, who had relationships in the department, to cover up parts of the investigation and prevent arrests. The lawsuit also claims that law enforcement deputized the McMichael’s, Bryan, and their neighbor, Perez to act as law enforcement officers in their Satilla Shores neighborhood as they searched for a suspected burglar. Their search ultimately led to Arbery being chased down and shot to death as the McMichael’s and Bryan suspected he was a neighborhood burglar.
“When we talk about doing the case the right way it’s about telling the truth,” Merritt said to Mason. “It’s about talking about systemic racism, not only that caused these men to single out and target Ahmaud Arbery, but also to allow the state to participate, to ratify their behavior, to deputize these men, and to cover it up after the fact.
The suit brings back to light a text conversation CBS46 reported on early in the case where Glynn County Officer Robert Rash told a homeowner, Larry English, to call Greg McMichael day or night when he sees anyone on his home surveillance camera.
The suit says Arbery’s 4th amendment and civil rights were violated. The filing seeks several million dollars in damages for Arbery’s estate, under which his mother is the administrator.
“When I laid my baby to rest on the 23rd of February, some thought he was a criminal. Some thought that he deserved what he got, and when it all unfolded he had done nothing wrong,” Cooper-Jones told Mason. “And, even if he had done something wrong, he didn’t deserve to die.”
In Brunswick, Arbery’s father’s family held a walk in Ahmaud Arbery’s honor. They’ve planned a parade in Brunswick Georgia on Saturday.