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Ahmaud Arbery's mom: Death of her son has become more painful as time goes on

'I realize that Ahmaud is never coming back.'

ATLANTA — Feb. 23 marks one year since 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery - out for a jog in a south Georgia neighborhood - was shot and killed after he was chased by a father-son duo who thought he looked "suspicious."

But for Arbery's mother, Wander Cooper-Jones, the pain that comes with his loss has not subsided.

"As time passes, I -- I realize that Ahmaud is never coming back," she told NBC News' Blayne Alexander in an interview a day before the anniversary of his death.

"I think before I was in -- numb. I was in a state of just being numb," she described. "As the days has passed, the numbness has left and I'm really -- it's very painful. Very painful."

Arbery, 25, was gunned down while he was jogging through a residential neighborhood in Glynn County near Brunswick on Feb. 23, 2020, after a white father and son tried to stop him because they said he looked suspicious. But his death wouldn't gain national attention until months later in May, when a graphic cell phone video showing that deadly encounter surfaced online. 

On Monday, the day before the anniversary of Arber's death,11Alive's Neima Abdulahi sat down with newly-elected Cobb County District Attorney Flynn Broady, Jr., along with Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Jesse Evans, to talk about the case

With the district attorney’s office appointed as the special prosecutor in this case, all eyes will be on Cobb County - even though the case happened more than four hours outside of Atlanta

During the conversation, Broady said the main priority is to get Ahmaud Arbery’s family justice.

“The entire state of Georgia is looking for justice," he said. "It’s heart wrenching to know that it’s been a year and they’re still waiting for answers.”

Broady and Evans both said this case has led to conversations about equality and the fight for justice.

“The state and this county is tired of the intolerance. They’re tired of the hate. They’re tired of the divisiveness. They want unity,” Broady said.

Evans also reflected on the dialogues on race relations, the nationwide protests of 2020, and the outcry for justice.

“Part of the reason why we’re having these difficult conversations is because maybe we haven’t done a good enough of a job in the past as prosecutors and law enforcement to have an open dialogue about these things,” Evans said.

The death of Cooper-Jones' son did have ripple effects - his name became a rallying cry for activists during a summer of racial reckoning. Arbery's death also spurred new hate crime legislation and a change to Georgia's citizens arrest laws.

While Cooper-Jones still grapples with her loss, she said seeing those protests unfold, and the demands for justice, helped some with coping.

"It was a sense of hope. That I wasn't standing alone." 

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