On February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Marquez Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old Black man, was murdered in Satilla Shores, a neighborhood near Brunswick in Glynn County, Georgia, United States. Arbery had been pursued by three White residents – Travis McMichael and his father Gregory, who were armed and in one vehicle, and William "Roddie" Bryan, who was in another vehicle and videoed the pursuit and shooting. After Travis exited his vehicle and wielded a shotgun, Travis and Arbery engaged in a physical confrontation, during which Travis shot Arbery. Police interview transcripts detailed that Gregory initiated the chase after seeing Arbery running past his house, suspecting that Arbery had committed burglary or theft in Satilla Shores, but no evidence has emerged of Arbery doing so. According to police testimony, Bryan told police that he saw the chase and joined in independently, but was not sure if Arbery had done anything wrong. Arbery had entered an under-construction house with no doors five times in five months, including once shortly before the shooting. Security camera video from inside the house showed no evidence of theft.
The Glynn County Police Department (GCPD) said the Brunswick District Attorney's Office advised them on February 23 to make no arrests, while the Brunswick District Attorney's Office denied that its top officeholders gave such advice. Waycross District Attorney George Barnhill twice advised the GCPD to make no arrests, once on February 24, before he was assigned to the case on February 27, and a second time on April 2 while announcing his intention to recuse himself from the case due to connections between his son and Gregory McMichael. Barnhill requested recusal on April 7, and the case was sent to the Atlantic District Attorney's Office on April 13. At the behest of Gregory McMichael, a local attorney provided a copy of the video of the shooting to local radio station WGIG, who posted it to their website on May 5. The video went viral, having also been posted on YouTube and Twitter. Within hours, Atlantic District Attorney Tom Durden said a grand jury would decide whether charges would be brought, and accepted an offer from Governor Brian Kemp to have the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) investigate the case.