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Ahmaud Arbery: A Look At His Life Before It Was Cut Short


It has been three months since Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed while jogging in a Georgia neighborhood. Since then, his death has been analyzed by countless commentators, attorneys, officials. But what about his life? All these months after his death, we still find ourselves asking, who was Ahmaud Arbery? Well, Aaron Morrison is a race and ethnicity reporter for the Associated Press. He spent time in Brunswick, Ga., talking with Arbery's parents and coaches and childhood friends.

And he joins us now. Hey there, Aaron. Welcome.

AARON MORRISON: Hi. Thanks for having me.

KELLY: Start by describing for us that the neighborhood, the community that Ahmaud Arbery lived in. How long had his family been there?

MORRISON: His family had been there for, you know, as long as - you know, as early as his peewee football days.

KELLY: Right.

MORRISON: So, you know, I don't know when the family moved to Brunswick. But if you wanted, you know, a description of the town, it's a predominantly black town surrounded by predominantly white subdivisions and other communities, more suburban or more affluent. And so where we find Ahmaud here is running from his, you know, Brunswick home into a subdivision known as Satilla Shores. And that's where he encounters the two men that would profile him as a burglar and kill him.

KELLY: Who are charged with shooting him, yeah. Well, take us back to those peewee football days. His family told you that he was a shy kid growing up, reserved. They worried he never went out. Did they talk about how he came out of his shell?

MORRISON: They talked about him really coming into his own as he started in his early teens to late teens - started to think about what he wanted out of his life. And, you know, he, at one point, wanted to turn his love of football and sports into a career in the NFL. And that's not something that panned out, really. His coach told me that, you know, he wasn't a shoo-in for linebacker even on the junior varsity squad of his high school. It's - the Brunswick High Pirates is the team that he went out for. But he showed a lot of heart and still managed to play four years on his high school football team.

KELLY: You're - the high school football coach, Jason Vaughn, I gather is his name, also said that Arbery had a pretty good sense of humor, that he did a good imitation of his coach.

MORRISON: Well, multiple people that I spoke to talked about Ahmaud's personality. His mother said he was the life of the party. But then also, too, his coach says that he had this real ability to sense when, you know, his coach wasn't having a great day. And so he'd go, you know, go stand next to him in the hallway and sort of imitate him and tell other students to get to class and don't be tardy, don't be late. And the coach, Jason Vaughn, said that that was really, you know, the way that- you know, that Ahmaud showed care for other people.

KELLY: It sounds like people were pretty open with you that Arbery had had some rough patches. He had had a couple of run-ins with the law in 2013 and 2017. There was probation for bringing a gun to high school grounds. There was a shoplifting charge. But his lawyer Lee Merritt told you that Arbery was at a point of transition. What do we know about that? What was he planning for the future?

MORRISON: Well, he has - his mother has four brothers - or rather, three brothers. And he wanted to become an electrician like his uncles. And so he had gone to - I'm sorry.

KELLY: Yeah. Go on, please.

MORRISON: Sure. He had gone to, you know, take some college courses to begin making the transition into becoming an electrician. But he decided to take a break sometime within the last couple of years - or rather, within the last year. And that time would allow him to finish his term of probation for the charges that he pled guilty to in his late teens, early 20s.

KELLY: Aaron Morrison, he is a race and ethnicity reporter for the Associated Press, telling us a little bit there about the life of Ahmaud Arbery.

Thanks so much.

MORRISON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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