In his final days, Ahmaud Arbery’s life was at a crossroads

BRUNSWICK (Ga.) -- His life was stretching before him and his troubles were largely behind. He was enrolled at South Georgia Technical College and was preparing to become an electrical engineer, like his uncles. He decided to take a break first. He could leave college until the fall.

In his final days, Ahmaud Arbery’s life was at a crossroads

BRUNSWICK (Ga.) -- His life was stretching before him and his troubles were largely behind. He was enrolled at South Georgia Technical College and was preparing to become an electrical engineer, like his uncles. He decided to take a break first. He could leave college until the fall.

He ran almost every day to keep his head clear. He would then head out of his mother's home and down the long street towards Fancy Bluff Road. Next, he would take the right turn onto Fancy Bluff Road. It is lined with oak trees and Spanish moss.

Ahmaud Arbery would cross the four lanes on Jekyll Island Causeway about a mile and half into his normal route to reach the subdivision of Satilla Shores.

He ran Satilla Shores his last time on February 23, 2020, at the age 25.

Arbery was killed that day by his father and son, who claimed they chased Arbery in a pickup truck after him because they thought he was responsible in breaking into their neighborhood.

A temporary memorial of flowers was erected on the lawn of his house three months later. It included a plaque that read, "It's difficult to forget someone who has given us so many to remember."

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EDITOR'S NOTE - Ahmaud Arbery was profiled by The Associated Press on May 25, 2020.

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Before Arbery's name was added to a list of hashtags that bear young Black men names, he was a thin kid whose hopes of a career in the NFL didn't come true. People who knew him spoke of his seemingly endless supply of kindness that he used to encourage others. They also mentioned his infectious smile and laughter that could brighten any situation.

They also acknowledged the legal problems that arose after high school: five years probation for carrying a firearm onto the school campus in 2013 a year after graduating, and shoplifting at a Walmart in 2017 - a charge which extended his probation until his death.

Many of his closest friends told The Associated Press that Arbery seemed to be on the brink of professional and personal breakthroughs in his last months on Earth. This was especially true because he could have been released from probation that year.

Wanda Cooper Jones, his mother, admitted that he was a young adult who lived at home like many of his contemporaries. She took a break to help him plan how he would one day provide for himself.

One rule was hers: "If there is energy to run the roads you must be on the job."

He worked as a car washer and landscaper for his father, and had previously worked at McDonald's.

Ahmaud Marquez, born May 8, 1994 in Arbery, was the youngest of three siblings. He received the affectionate nicknames "Maud", and "Quez."

He stayed at home as a teenager and was so strict that his family was worried he wouldn't want to go out with other kids. Cooper-Jones stated, "And I was like he'll get on the stage eventually." "He was at first a mama's son."

His mother had predicted that this reserve would be lost when Arbery entered Brunswick High School’s Class of 2012.

Marcus Jr. was Marcus' brother and he tried out for the Brunswick Pirates football club. Jason Vaughn, Jason's former coach and U.S. History teacher at the school, stated that his slim build didn't make him an easy choice for the position of linebacker on the junior-varsity squad.

Vaughn laughed and said, "As soon practice began, Ahmaud really started to go, oh my god, his speed was incredible," He was small, but his heart was big.

Ahmaud was a natural leader and had a gift for lifting the spirits of others. He also had a tendency to imitate his coach Vaughn.

Vaughn stated, "If I was standing there looking like I was having a bad day or being mean -- maybe my lesson plan wasn't going right -- Maud could sense that about me." He'd stand next to me and say, "I'm Coach Vaughn today." Keep going to class. Hurry! Don't be late! Don't be late!" That was what I loved about him. He tried to make everyone smile.

He said that some students are difficult to get mad at because they love them so much.

After his last football season, no college recruiter tried to lure No. 21. His mother recalls that Arbery's high school football season ended on a high note.

He intercepted a pass, ran the ball back and scored a touchdown in his last game. His mother insisted that it was still important. She said, "Guess what son?" He was extremely, very excited about it. It was a great moment for us."

Demetrius Frazier, a former teammate, grew up right down the street of the Arberys. Ahmaud's friendship dates back to their time in a local peewee football program.

Frazier cherishes the quieter moments of high school, when Frazier was just two friends, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, hotdogs, and chips.

Frazier stated that those were the times when his friend seemed most happy, prior to his legal problems.

Frazier played wide receiver for Middle Tennessee State University's Football team. He now works in an office and has a son living nearby in Darien, Georgia.

Frazier stated that Arbery had lost all hope of pursuing football, but that he was still determined to succeed.

He said that Ahmaud was ready to make himself a place to be where he wanted in his life. They took that from him.

Travis McMichael, 34, called 911 less than two weeks prior to Arbery's death to report a possible criminal in a subdivision house. He described him as a "Black male with red shirt and shorts", and said he feared he was armed.

Ahmaud was seen on security cameras entering the home on the day of his death, according to the Arbery family attorneys. Although the property owner claimed that nothing had been stolen, surveillance footage shows other people entering and exiting the construction site on different days to gain access to the water supply.

Travis McMichael, 64, and Gregory McMichael (a former officer for the Glynn county district attorney) were both charged with murder on May 7, 2020. This was a day before Arbery would turn 26.

After cellphone videoof another man's shooting at the scene was released by a local radio station, state law enforcement officials sought their arrests. Gregory McMichael said that Arbery had attacked his son, and then he was shot during a fight over Travis' gun.

State authorities charged William "Roddie Bryan Jr. with felony murder and criminal attempted to commit false imprisonment on May 21, 2020.

Arbery's family feels the loss of their loved one even more because his last moments are captured on video.

"I didn’t want to see it. Marcus Arbery Sr. Ahmaud's father Marcus Arbery Sr. said that he didn't want his children to see anything like that. He also noted that at most one Ahmaud sibling had seen the footage. My daughter called me and wept. They turned my family upside-down."

Cooper-Jones stated that she believes her son was just out for a run when he met the men who thought he was a burglar. She said that their rush to judge reflects a wider problem of prejudice against young Black men.

She said that he was probably looking for ways to conduct the wires on the property.

Lee Merritt, one the Arbery family’s civil rights lawyers, stated that Ahmaud's circumstances touch on something deeper about American society.

He said, "Our ravenous criminal system tends to take young Black males in their teenage years and introduce them to the system. And then they never let them out again." Ahmaud was in a transition period when he died.

His sister assured a crowd of supporters that his death would not be an inexplicable tragedy during a May 2020 rally for justice, held at the Brunswick's historic Glynn county courthouse. Many people had traveled hours from Atlanta just to get there.

Jasmine Arbery stated, "I like the belief that our lives are planned before we take our first steps." "I hate feeling like he was sacrificed but that's exactly how I feel."

A caravan of mostly Black motorcycle and car club members followed Ahmaud's route to Satilla Shores. The shooting scene was graced by people riding Corvettes and Dodges that were freshly waxed.

Cooper-Jones looked at the tributes that evening and said that she doesn't doubt that she raised her son right. She was a strict mom; she is adamant about that.

She celebrated her first Mother's Day, May 10, 2020 without her youngest child. She smiled when she thought back to the greeting card he had given her two years ago.

Ahmaud wrote, "We don’t see eye-to-eye, but we love each other." "That tells you, I had just gotten on his butt over something he did."

She said that nothing her son did in his short time was sufficient to justify the way he died.

She said, "I will get answers -- that's my promise." "That was the last thing I told him on the day of the funeral that Mama would get to the bottom.

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