WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump called the death of Ahmaud Arbery a sad and horrible thing on Monday, and said he awaits the results of investigations into the shooting death of the unarmed black jogger by two white men in Georgia.
“I think it’s horrible and it’s certainly being looked at by many people – I’m speaking to many people about it,” Trump said during a news conference at the White House.
Trump added that he talked with Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina – the Senate’s only black Republican – and he too was disturbed by the fatal shooting of Arbery, 25, captured on video.
Describing a photo he saw of the young victim, Trump said: “He looked – I saw the picture of him in his tuxedo, it was so beautiful – I mean he looks like a wonderful young guy. I think it’s a horrible thing.”
Trump faced criticism over the weekend for suggesting that something could have happened off-camera that contributed to the shooting in Brunswick, Georgia. “You know, it could be something that we didn’t see on tape,” Trump said during a Fox News interview.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms described the killing as a “lynching,” and said that Trump’s past rhetoric about immigrants and white supremacists emboldens racists.
Speaking Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, Bottoms said: “With the rhetoric we hear coming out of the White House in so many ways, I think that many who are prone to being racist are given permission to do it in an overt way.”
Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son, Travis, 34, have been charged with murder and aggravated assault.
State and federal investigators are reviewing the case, including the fact that two men were not arrested for the shooting until more than two months afterward.
“They’re studying the case very carefully, they’re interviewing everybody involved and we’ll see what happens,” Trump said. “To me it’s a very sad thing.”
When asked about his comments suggesting something happened off camera, Trump said: “Well, I saw the tape and when they moved left, I don’t believe when they moved left outside of the tape – nobody saw what was going on. It’s an empty spot on the tape, I guess.”
“I will say that it’s something that, based on what I saw, doesn’t look good,” he added.
Federal officials are looking at the possibility of hate crime charges in Arbery’s death. They are also conducting an investigation into the way local officials handled the case from the outset.
Local officials charged the McMichaels with murder and aggravated assault after arresting them on May 7 – more than two months after the shooting, amid global criticism over a video of the incident that showed no provocation on his part.
The case sparked national outcry after surveillance footage of the shooting spread on social media. Runners around the world marked what would have been Arbery’s 26th birthday on Friday by sharing photos with the hashtag #IRunWithMaud and jogging 2.23 miles in a nod to February 23, the day the young black jogger was killed.