Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., are on trial for the 2020 killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia.
Arbery was shot dead on Feb. 23, 2020, in a confrontation with the McMichaels in the neighborhood of Satilla Shores, outside the city of Brunswick in Georgia’s lowcountry.
Arbery was on a jog — something he was known to do, according to those who knew him — when the McMichaels grabbed their guns and pursued Arbery. Gregory McMichael, a former police officer and investigator in the local district attorney’s office, later told police Arbery and his son had struggled over his son’s shotgun, and that Travis McMichael shot Arbery after the latter attacked him, according to the initial police report.
Bryan had joined the pursuit and recorded the shooting on his cellphone.
Gregory McMichael told police he and his son had pursued Arbery because they suspected he was responsible for a string of recent purported burglaries in the neighborhood. A Glynn County Police spokesperson later said there had only been one burglary — a gun stolen from an unlocked vehicle in front of the McMichaels’ home — reported in more than seven weeks prior to the shooting.
Additionally, McMichael said he saw Arbery inside a home under construction. Arbery was seen entering the home in surveillance video at the site, but the owner of the home told CNN he did not see Arbery commit any crime other than “trespassing” the day of the shooting.
For months, the case lay dormant, and two prosecutors recused themselves due to conflicts of interest.
But in May, video taken by Bryan of the fatal interaction was made public, and the McMichaels were arrested days later. The three were all jointly indicted by a grand jury in June 2020.
At a preliminary hearing last June, Georgia Bureau of Investigation Assistant Special Agent in Charge Richard Dial testified Bryan told investigators he heard Travis McMichael use a racial epithet after shooting Arbery. McMichael had also used racial slurs numerous times on social media and on messaging services, Dial said.
Attorneys for the three defendants have said they acted in self-defense. But Dial testified the opposite was true.
“I believe Mr. Arbery was being pursued, and he ran till he couldn’t run anymore, and it was turn his back to a man with a shotgun or fight with his bare hands against the man with the shotgun. He chose to fight,” he said. “I believe Mr. Arbery’s decision was to just try to get away, and when he felt like he could not escape, he chose to fight.”