BRUNSWICK, Ga. — A state investigator alleged Thursday that a white man was heard using a racial slur as he stood over Ahmaud Arbery’s body, moments after killing him with three shots from a shotgun.
The lead Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent in the case testified that Travis and Greg McMichael and a third man in another pickup, William “Roddie” Bryan, used their trucks to chase down and box in Arbery, who repeatedly reversed directions and even jumped into a ditch in a desperate struggle to escape, Tulsa World reported.
Travis McMichael then got out of his truck and confronted Arbery, later telling police he shot him in self defense after Arbery refused his order to get on the ground, Special Agent Richard Dial said. A close examination of the video of the shooting shows the first shot was to Arbery’s chest, the second was to his hand, and the third was to his chest before he collapsed in the road, Dial said.
Bryan, who recorded that video, said he heard the gunman say a racist epithet as he stood over Arbery’s body before police arrived, Dial said. The specific words included, “f***ing n****r,” Fox News reported.
Special prosecutor Jesse Evans said Arbery “was chased, hunted down and ultimately executed.”
“I don’t think it was self-defense by Mr. McMichael. I think it was self-defense by Mr. Arbery,” Dial said later under defense questioning. “When he couldn’t get away, he chose to fight.”
Arbery was shot three times. Once in the center of his chest, once in the upper left chest and once through his right wrist.
The first shot soaked Arbery’s white shirt with blood instantly, Dial said.
The evidence presented Thursday to support a murder trial also raises questions about the idea that the McMichaels and Bryan were legitimately carrying out a citizens’ arrest of a suspected burglar.
Dial testified that Greg McMichaels told police that “he didn’t know if Mr. Arbery had stolen anything or not, but he had a gut feeling” that Arbery had committed prior break-ins in the neighborhood.
Moreover, the testimony could factor into a federal investigation into whether hate crime charges are warranted.
Dial testified that investigators found a Confederate symbol in Travis’ McMichael’s truck and several more racial slurs in messages on his phone. The U.S. Department of Justice said on May 11 that it is “assessing all the evidence to determine whether federal hate crime charges are appropriate.” Georgia is one of the few states that don’t have a hate crime law.
Travis McMichael, 34, his father Greg McMichael, 64, and Bryan, 50, were charged with murder more than two months after Arbery was killed, Law Officer reported.
Georgia law defines felony murder as a killing caused by the commission of an underlying felony. It does not require intent to kill. The minimum penalty is life in prison with a chance of parole.
Defense attorneys for both McMichaels have said much remains unknown about what led to the shooting and have cautioned against rushing to judgment. An attorney for Bryan has said he was merely a witness to Arbery’s death.