ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) — On May 10, 2021, Governor Brian Kemp signed HB 479 into law, revoking Georgia’s Citizen’s Arrest law. “This bill makes Georgia the first state in the country to repeal its Citizens Arrest statute,” he said.

Ahmaud Arbery’s family and the attorney for his estate, Lee Merritt, attended the bill signing and said it’s a step in the right direction. “I’m thankful,” said Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother. “Unfortunately, I had to lose my son to get significant change.” The Civil War-era law is what kept authorities from initially charging Travis and Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan with murder in Arbery’s death. Arbery was shot and killed while jogging in a Brunswick neighborhood last year. “Ahmaud was the victim of a vigilante-style of violence that has no place in our country or in our state,” said Kemp.

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The citizen’s arrest overhaul now limits the ability to detain suspected criminals to strictly business employees, security guards and few others. Authorities arrested the McMichaels last year on May 7, one day before Arbery’s birthday. They arrested Bryan two weeks later. “I look at this bill signing today as also a birthday present to Ahmaud,” Cooper-Jones said. Arbery would have turned 27 on Saturday, May 8, 2021.

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The family launched the Ahmaud Arbery Foundation to celebrate his legacy by mentoring youth. “The family is still focusing on criminal accountability and seeing this case through to a prosecution and appropriate sentencing,” Merritt said. They’re hoping it will set a precedent for other cases as well. “it will protect young men as their jogging down the street,” said Cooper-Jones.

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The McMichaels and Bryan will be arraigned in a South Georgia court on May 11 on federal hate crime charges. A state trial hearing is scheduled for next week.