On Feb. 23, Ahmaud "Quez" Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was chased and fatally shot while jogging in Glynn County, Georgia. Three white residents, including a father and son, told police they thought Arbery was a suspect in a series of break-ins. They were charged with felony murder and aggravated assault after cellphone footage showing the deadly struggle leaked online. In the video, one of the men is heard using a racial slur while standing over Arbery's body. A Georgia grand jury indicted the three men who had been arrested and charged in connection with the alleged murder of Ahmaud Arbery. They're facing nine charges including malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal contempt to commit a felony. The three suspects remain in custody in Glynn County and have not been arraigned. They could face life sentences without parole.
Georgia was one of four U.S. states that did not have a hate crime law. In the wake of the killing, Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper Jones pushed for Georgia to pass a hate crime bill.
Georgia’s legislature passed hate crimes legislation on June 23, which Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law. The law, which imposes additional punishments for crimes involving bias or prejudice on the basis of race, religion, sex, disability, went into effect on July 1. The Department of Justice is looking at evidence to determine if a hate crime was committed in Arbery’s case.
Cooper Jones was one of seven mothers who sat down with ABC News' Deborah Roberts for "Good Morning America" to share the stories of the children they lost and their journeys as Black mothers in America.
In her own words, Cooper Jones reflects on the life and legacy of her youngest child and shares her opinions on his tragic death and heart-breaking loss.
Essay as told to ABC News' Nicole Pelletiere.
The last time I saw Ahmaud alive his last three words were, "I love you." And whenever I get discouraged or really sad, I hear his voice saying those words.
Ahmaud was the baby of the family. Ahmaud, he was quiet. His brother and sister spoke for him a lot. Ahmaud, he was caring. Ahmaud loved.
My other two children, sometimes they thought Ahmaud was my favorite. But I'd tell them, "I love you all." It’s because Ahmaud and I shared a very special bond. We were really close. Ahmaud was the baby that would come and give me a kiss on the cheek. And when he grew into a young adult, he would still give me those same little kisses.
Ahmaud was the life of the party. Ahmaud was the guy that would tell a joke and want you to laugh at that joke, whether it was funny or not. Ahmaud loved people. He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He was a great friend, and a happy-go-lucky guy.
Ahmaud loved video games. He spent countless hours in the day gaming. He of course liked to stay fit. He jogged every day if it wasn't raining and enjoyed lifting weights. Ahmaud had a special friend. He enjoyed spending time with her, and enjoyed life outside of his health and fitness.
Ahmaud was returning to school this fall to finish his goal of becoming an electrician. He had three uncles that were very successful electricians and as a teenager, he would spend summers with my mother and my brothers would take him out on side jobs. He enjoyed doing that.
By the time Ahmaud was 5, his father and I separated. So basically it was just me and the children.
We had challenges that we both faced -- he as a child, and me as his mom. In the midst of the challenges there was love. Ahmaud knew that whatever he chose to do that I was going to support him, and likewise. He was my push, my kids were my push.
When Ahmaud was 19 or 20 I decided to study for my insurance adjuster license. Ahmaud would tell me, "Mom, you can't memorize the information, you’ve got to study." He would say it in a joking way, but he wanted me to have my license because he knew this was something that I wanted.
In February, I had just returned home from an assignment. I hadn’t been home for six to seven months.
He didn't know I was coming home on that Sunday evening. So, I rang the doorbell to surprise him. He said, "Mom, are you home?" The expression on his face will never leave me. He was so happy to see me.
About 20 days later, Ahmaud was killed.
I’ll never forget it. I was laying on my mother's couch. The phone rang, and it came from a blocked member. Normally I don't answer blocked numbers, but something told me to answer the phone. My mom's 83 years old. As I look back on it, I didn't prepare her for the results. When the detective gave me the news I immediately swung my legs from around the couch and set my feet on the floor. I looked at my mom and she looked at me and I said, "Quez has been killed."
My son had just been killed. He was somewhere deceased so I needed to start making plans so he could begin to rest appropriately.
He was out here in the world somewhere. I need to make those phone calls to determine where he was.
I've been asked this question before: "What were your initial thoughts when you learned Ahmaud was killed?" I can't find words to explain it. I just knew it wasn't a good feeling. I wanted to cry, but I couldn't cry. I wanted to scream but I couldn't scream.
Ahmaud actually ran for his life. Then, he fought. That tells me that Ahmaud was not ready to die.
I didn't watch the video. My siblings have, and they described it. He fought these guys and then after he was defeated, when he fell to the ground in his last seconds of his life, he was called the n-word.
Ahmaud didn't deserve that. No human being deserves that.
It's bad enough that you chased him and you put him in the position to fight. Then after he's lying there dying, you feel no kind of respect for his life at all. You still disrespected him to the highest with calling him a name of such.
When there's a new victim of police brutality or hate crime, it makes me angry – angry that another family has to go through what I've gone through.
They have to grieve in the way that I have grieved, in the way I’m still grieving and no mother and father, sister or brother--no one--deserves to be presented with such pain.
I’ve reached out to Breonna Taylor's mom and had the pleasure of meeting with Atatiana Jefferson's sisters. I needed that interaction with those ladies. To hear their stories, to hear them voice their pain, gave me a sense of hope that there is life after the storm.
I'm new to all this. But now that I'm on the inside looking at it from a totally different perspective, I think when they shoot, they don't shoot to stop. They shoot to kill. That has to stop.
I believe Ahmaud was killed because of the color of his skin. I do think it was a hate crime.
I think that Ahmaud's death was not in vain, but when the n-word was used it let the world know that racism, prejudice, all those things exist. It exists right in our neighborhood. And we as the people need to have conversations with ourselves to determine what part we play in order to see things change.
We found out Georgia is one of the four states in the country that does not have a hate crime law. I was presented by a member of the House here in Atlanta, who said they were going to implement a hate crime law and possibly name it in honor of Ahmaud. I shared with her, "It's not about Ahmaud, it's about the citizens of Georgia."
We need this law to protect us. Now that this bill is passed, people will think twice on how they take lives because they'll now be held highly accountable for the decisions they make.
I think Ahmaud’s smiling down and saying, "Keep fighting, keep pushing” because he would want change.
I shared earlier that Ahmaud was caring. Ahmaud was kind, Ahmaud would want to help and if he thought him going off to heaven will bring change to his fellow classmates, his classmates' children, his neighbors children, he would be all for it.
What I miss most is his smile. And when I was upset with him, he would just stare at me. Every time he did it, we’d both ended up smiling. It's because I was pissed at him and he knew, "I can still make this lady smile." It worked every time.
I sit back and think how Ahmaud and I won't have those interactions anymore, but I have to try and hold onto what I do have.
One thing I would tell him is, "You knew I would keep fighting for you. I would ask questions and demand answers."
The support that people have given, the protesters, the people who marched it really touched my heart.
It doesn't make Ahmaud come back, but it does make me feel better.
I'm not in this alone.
The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of ABC News.