Accused Gregory McMichael told a cop that Ahmaud Arbery was ‘trapped like a rat’ when he and his son, Travis McMichael, chased the black jogger, their murder trial heard Wednesday.
The former police officer described to Detective Sgt. Rod Nohilly Arbery’s final moments while running through the predominantly white Satilla Shores neighborhood of the small coastal city of Brunswick, Georgia.
McMichael said: ‘He was trapped like a rat. I think he was wanting to flee and he realized that something, you know, he was not going to get away.’
The McMichaels had grabbed guns and chased 25-year-old Arbery in their white pickup truck because they believed the jogger might have been responsible for local break-ins, their defense has said.
Gregory McMichael, 65, has said he and his son, Travis McMichael, 35, shouted for Arbery to stop.
He told trial witness Detective Nohilly: ‘He was much faster than Travis would ever be. He had opportunity to flee further you know.
‘We had chased him around the neighborhood a bit but he wasn’t winded at all. I mean this guy was, he was in good shape.’
Gregory McMichael (left) allegedly told police that he, his son (right) and their neighbor had Ahmaud Arbery (pictured on the pavement) ‘trapped like a rat,’ noting that the jogger ‘knew he wasn’t going to get away’
McMichael’s comments were revealed during Detective Roderic Nohilly’s testimony in court on Wednesday (pictured)
The McMichaels began their pursuit of Arbery after he was spotted in a partially-constructed house on their street – which had been the subject of thefts allegedly involving a black man.
Arbery was inside the house for a short while before resuming his run on the street, in the direction of the McMichael home.
Gregory McMichael told Nohilly during an interview shortly after Arbery was shot dead by Travis: ‘When he came past my house. He met the description of the video I had seen being in there (the house).
‘White t-shirt, short pants plus he was hauling a**. And you know this, he was running like people don’t run normally. He wasn’t out for a Sunday jog. He was getting the hell out of there.
‘And there was no hesitation on his part when he came to Travis. I mean, I think he was, his intention was to grab that gun and probably shoot Travis. In my mind, that’s what I saw.
‘And with that in mind, if he had gotten that shotgun, and there was any separation between Travis and him I was the one to cap his a**.’
The transcript of the interview was read aloud Wednesday at the racially-charged trial in Brunswick Superior Court.
Nohilly told the hearing that Gregory McMichael admitted he had never seen Arbery before, telling him: ‘No, no, I had never laid eyes on the guy… nobody in the neighborhood, nobody has a clue who he is.’
The detective also claimed McMichael said he ‘had never laid eyes’ on Arbery before he had ran past this driveway on February 23, 2020.
According to the transcript, the detective asked McMichael why he was chasing the victim: ‘Did this guy break into a house today?’
‘Well that’s just it, I don’t know,’ McMichael replied, according to the transcript.
Prior to that interview, McMichael had told officers on scene that he chased Arbery because he believed he was a criminal who had been recorded by security cameras breaking into houses in the Satilla Shores neighborhood.
Ahmaud Arbery (pictured) was chased and shot Feb. 23, 2020, after he was spotted running in the suburban neighborhood of Satilla Shores, located just outside the port city of Brunswick
Nohilly was also quizzed by Gregory McMichaels’ attorney Frank Hogue over when the detective himself might have pulled a gun in a similar situation.
Asked if that would be when someone didn’t stop, Nohilly replied: ‘No, I don’t just pull my gun.’
Hogue responded: ‘At some point if the person is going to attack you, you’ll go ahead and use your weapon.’
‘It depends on how he’s attacking me,’ Nohilly said.
‘If the circumstance includes being attacked by someone who seems to be trying to take your gun from you – putting his hands on it – you might use your gun, wouldn’t you?’ Hogue pressed.
‘At that point it might meet the threshold, yes,’ the police sergeant said.
Matt Albenze, a neighbor of the McMichaels, told the court Wednesday morning that he was outside his home chopping wood when he spotted Arbery in the partially-finished house.
The owner Larry English had previously shown him security video before of a black man on the property at night, but there was no confirmation this was Arbery.
‘I noticed Mr. Arbery standing in the front yard of that house, just looking around,’ he told the court.
‘What came to mind was Mr. English’s video. He then spotted Arbery through a window of the house.
Albenze said he grabbed a 9mm pistol and went into the street, then called the local non-emergency police line for assistance. On the call, Albenze explained he had seen a man on the construction site and added ‘he’s running around here’. The operator said she was sending assistance.
The neighbor then walked in the direction of McMichaels’ home a short distance away and told the court he said ‘there he goes’ while making a forward arm motion. But he added this was a general reaction, not a communication to the two accused.
Albenze said he then walked home. But added: ‘After a few minutes I heard gunshots. I got my bicycle and rode down to the corner. I saw a police car, I saw Mr. Arbery laying on the street, I saw Greg and Travis there. It was a kind of shocking scene.’
Travis McMichael (left), Gregory McMichael (center) and William Bryan Jr. (right) have all pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, aggravated assault and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment
The court had already heard the McMichaels grabbed a .357 Magnum handgun and a shotgun before hopping in their pickup truck to chase Arbery, a budding rapper who lived with his mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, just outside Brunswick.
Unarmed neighbor William ‘Roddy’ Bryan, 52, joined the chase in his own truck – and would film the shocking cell phone footage of the deadly encounter only minutes away.
According to Gregory McMichael’s account in one police report, he and Travis shouted ‘stop, stop, we want to talk to you’ at Arbery.
In a transcript of an interview with Detective Parker Marcy read to the court Tuesday, McMichael stated: ‘I said, ‘Stop, you know, I’ll blow your f*****g head off or something.’
‘I was trying to convey to this guy we were not playing.’
The pair eventually pulled up alongside Arbery and Travis exited the truck with a shotgun.
In the police report, Gregory McMichael alleged ‘the unidentified male began to violently attack Travis and the two men then started fighting over the shotgun at which point Travis fired a shot and then a second later there was a second shot’.
Officer-worn body camera footage presented in court on Monday showed Gregory McMichael, 65, (left) consoling his son, Travis McMichael (right), after the 35-year-old shot Ahmaud Arbery
Officer-worn body camera footage presented in court Tuesday revealed that McMichael told officers on scene of the shooting he would’ve shot the jogger himself if his son had not done so.
‘To be perfectly honest with you, if I could have gotten a shot at the guy, I’d have shot him myself,’ McMichael said, according to a transcript of Officer Jeff Brandeberry’s body-camera footage that was read aloud in court.
McMichael added: ‘This ain’t no shuffler. This guy’s an a**hole.’
He also consoled his son, Travis McMichael, after the 35-year-old allegedly shot Arbery three times.
‘You had no choice,’ the elder McMichael said as he placed his hands on his son’s shoulders, as Arbery laid on ground, bleeding.
McMichael recalled the moment he first saw Arbery that fateful day.
According to the Officer Brandeberry transcript, he said: ‘The guy comes hauling a** down the street. I’m talking about dead run, he’s not jogging.
‘So I haul my a** into my bedroom to get a .357 Magnum. I don’t take any chances.’
Father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael armed themselves and used a pickup truck to pursue Arbery after they spotted him running in their neighborhood.
A neighbor, William ‘Roddie’ Bryan, 52, joined the chase and took cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery in the street at close range.
Prosecutors say the McMichaels and Bryan chased Arbery for five minutes before he was shot in the street after running past the McMichaels’ idling truck.
This image from video posted on Twitter in May 2020, purports to show Ahmaud Arbery stumbling and falling to the ground after being shot by Travis McMichael
Police photographs presented in court Monday showed bloodstains on the asphalt (left) and Travis McMichael’s pump-action 12-gauge shotgun lying on grass near Arbery’s body (right)
Bryan allegedly hit Arbery with his truck after joining the chase and before filming the horrifying cell phone footage. All three men were allowed to leave the scene and there were no arrests until the video became public two months later.
The senior McMichael told investigators he feared Arbery might be armed because there had been several thefts in the neighborhood, including a gun stolen from his son’s truck. He believed Arbery fitted the description of a man seen going into the partly constructed home on at least four occasions.
Defense lawyers claim the three defendants acted in self-defense after chasing and cornering Arbery. The men say they were trying to make a lawful citizen’s arrest until police arrived.
However, prosecutor Linda Dunikoski has argued the trio chased the former standout football player for four minutes through the area and threatened to shoot him.
Gregory McMichael – an ex-Glynn County cop and former investigator with the local district attorney’s office – 35-year-old Travis McMichael and William ‘Roddie’ Bryan, 52, all face nine charges from the killing on February 23 last year.
These are malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
All three men have pleaded not guilty.