A Houston deputy, who posted a Facebook comment about Ahmaud Arbery in response to the life sentences that were handed to his three killers last week, has been placed on suspension pending termination.
According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Houston County Deputy Paul Urhahn was widely criticized after he referred to the murdered Black man as a criminal who, nevertheless, got the death penalty. Urhahn, a 20-year-veteran, later deleted the Facebook comment. His suspension also comes without pay.
The suspended deputy reportedly made those comments on a Facebook post WGXA-TV shared about the life sentences that were handed out to Arbery’s killers last Friday. “That criminal Arbery still got the death penalty though,” Urhahn commented, per the television station.
Urhahn’s comments were widely condemned with several people calling for his termination. Responding to the incident in a January 10 letter to Urhahn, Houston County Sheriff Cullen Talton notified the deputy he had been “suspended without pay pending termination” following an internal affairs investigation into his comments.
Talton informed Urhahn that decision was made after he established the deputy’s actions were in violation of multiple department policies on employee conduct, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“Conduct unbecoming an officer shall include that conduct … which has a tendency to destroy public respect for employees and confidence in the department,” the letter stated. The sheriff also informed Urhahn he can appeal the decision. Talton, however, said the deputy will ultimately be fired if he doesn’t file his appeal by January 20.
Arbery, 25, was shot and killed on February 23, 2020, after he was confronted by Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis, while he was jogging outside Brunswick in Georgia. The older McMichael, who is a retired cop, had told officers that they had chased Arbery in a truck after he thought the Black man looked like a suspect who had been connected to a number of burglaries in the Brunswick area.
The third defendant, William “Roddie” Bryan, also followed Arbery in a different truck and filmed the fatal encounter. The three White men were later arrested and charged in connection with the killing.
Prosecutors said Arbery’s death was racially motivated. However, the defense said the three men were trying to hold Arbery in a citizen’s arrest after they suspected him of burglarizing a home. They said Arbery was shot in self-defense after a struggle ensued over Travis McMichael’s gun.
In November, a nine-count indictment charged all three men with one count of malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment, and one count of criminal attempt to commit a felony, in this case, false imprisonment.
The three men were found guilty in Arbery’s death last Friday and received life sentences during a hearing in Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia. Travis McMichael, 35, and his father Gregory McMichael, 66, were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Bryan, 52, will have to serve 30 years of his life sentence before he is eligible for parole.
During the hearing, Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley spoke about how the McMichaels went after Arbery after Gregory McMichael saw him running in a street.
“Ahmaud Arbery was then hunted down and shot, and he was killed because individuals here in this courtroom took the law into their own hands,” the judge said. The judge added that Arbery was chased for about five minutes and “gunned down.”
“This was a killing,” Walmsley said before announcing the sentences. “It was callous, and it occurred, as far as the court is concerned based upon the evidence because confrontation was being sought.”
Federal hate crime charges have also been brought against the three men, and that trial is scheduled to start on February 7.