One year ago today (Feb. 23), Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed by Gregory and Travis McMichael. Arbery was out for a jog in his Georgia neighborhood when the white father and son tracked him down for looking “suspicious.” The McMichaels claimed they wanted to question the Black 25-year-old about a series of break-ins in the area and confronted him with a gun. While William Bryan filmed the incident, a struggle ensued and Arbery was fatally shot.
NBC News spoke with Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, ahead of the one-year anniversary of her son’s passing.
“You can’t move on. I cannot,” she told NBC’s Blayne Alexander. “I try, but when I laid Ahmaud to rest last February, a part of me left also.”
In the year since his death, both McMichaels and Bryan were charged with murder. However, a trial date has yet to be set.
“As time passes, I realize that Ahmaud is never coming back,” Cooper-Jones added. “I think before I was… numb. I was in a state of just being numb. As the days have passed, the numbness has left and I’m really… it’s very painful.”
Cooper-Jones said she has hope that racial justice efforts will improve under the Biden and Harris administration.
“I pray because I have another son; I have grandsons,” she said.
Earlier this month, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp called for the state’s citizen’s arrest law, which the McMichaels are expected to use as a defense, to be repealed. The governor said the law is “dangerous” and contributed to Arbery’s “horrific killing.”
“Ahmaud was a victim of [a] vigilante-style of violence that has no place in Georgia,” Kemp said. “And some tried to justify the actions of his killers by claiming they had the protection of an antiquated law that is ripe for abuse.”
In the wake of Arbery’s killing, Georgia also passed anti-hate crime legislation. Before the law, it was one of the few states in the country without a hate crime bill.
Thousands remembered Arbery today on Twitter and by sharing their 2.23-mile walks or runs; a reference to the date that the young man was killed. See Cooper-Jones’ emotional interview with NBC below.