ALL NEWS

Testimony: Shooter used racist slur as Arbery lay dying

Jun 5, 2020, 6:11 AM
This Thursday, May 7, 2020, file photo combo of images provided by the Glynn County Detention Cente...
This Thursday, May 7, 2020, file photo combo of images provided by the Glynn County Detention Center in Georgia shows Gregory McMichael, left, and his son Travis McMichael. Georgia's attorney general on Sunday asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the handling of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who authorities say died at the hands of the two men as he ran through a neighborhood. (Glynn County Detention Center via AP, File)
(Glynn County Detention Center via AP, File)

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — A state investigator testified Thursday that a white man was heard saying a racist slur as he stood over Ahmaud Arbery’s body, moments after fatally shooting the black man with a pump-action shotgun.

The inflammatory revelation came amid a week of angry nationwide protests over law enforcement biases against black victims that erupted after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

In a hearing to determine whether there was enough evidence to proceed with a murder trial, 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 ran into a ditch while trying to escape.

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, GBI agent Richard Dial said. He 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 hit his chest again before he collapsed in the road in a subdivision in the port town of Brunswick.

“Mr. Bryan said that after the shooting took place before police arrival, while Mr. Arbery was on the ground, that he heard Travis McMichael make the statement, ‘f – – – ing n – – – er,’” Dial said.

Bryan gave investigators the information roughly a week after the McMichaels’ arrest, but there’s no indication he told Glynn County investigators before that, Dial added.

Lee Merritt, an attorney for Arbery’s family, told reporters outside the courthouse that prosecutors had warned the family before the hearing of the coming testimony about the slur.

“It was still very difficult to hear in the context of a prolonged chase, that after he murdered Ahmaud Arbery and stood over his body, he used that racial epithet,” Merritt said. The lawyer said Thursday’s testimony revealed that “racism was at the heart” of Arbery’s slaying.

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones called the release of new details in court “very, very heartbreaking.”

“He was afraid,” Cooper-Jones said of her slain son. “Life had placed him in a position where I couldn’t protect him, and he wasn’t able to protect himself.”

At the conclusion of the probable cause hearing Thursday, Magistrate Court Judge Wallace Harrell found that there was enough evidence for the cases against all three defendants to proceed.

“Ahmaud Arbery was chased, hunted down and ultimately executed at the hands of these men,” prosecutor Jesse Evans told the judge. “He was on a run on a public road in a public subdivision. He was defenseless and unarmed.”

Under questioning by Jason Sheffield, an attorney for Travis McMichael, Dial said Travis told police he raised his shotgun at Arbery from roughly 90 feet (27 meters) away and told him to stop and get on the ground.

That’s when Arbery ran around the passenger side of Travis’ truck, and the two men met in front of it.

Dial said Travis told police Arbery “squared up” like he was going to attack.

“There’s a statement that he might have had his hand on his shirt,” Dial said. “Travis McMichael said his adrenaline was pumping and it all happened very quickly.”

He said Travis then fired the first shot into Arbery’s chest.

Sheffield argued that the pursuit began with a legitimate concern about past crimes in the neighborhood that escalated right before the shooting.

“Travis McMichael used self-defense when he was attacked by Mr. Arbery,” Sheffield said.

“I don’t think it was self-defense by Mr. McMichael,” Dial said. “I believe it was self-defense by Mr. Arbery.”

The testimony presented Thursday raises questions about the idea that the McMichaels and Bryan were legitimately carrying out a citizens’ arrest of a suspected burglar. It also could factor into a federal investigation into whether hate crime charges are warranted.

Dial testified that Greg McMichael 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.

The investigator testified that police body camera footage showed a Confederate flag sticker on a toolbox in Travis’ truck and that investigators discovered at least two more racial slurs in messages on his phone.

In response to questioning from Bryan’s attorney Kevin Gough, Dial testified that he believes Bryan joined the chase because he saw a black man running down the street with a truck following and drew conclusions based on racial bias. There’s evidence of Bryan’s “racist attitudes in his communications,” Dial said, referring to comments found on his cellphone.

The investigator added that several residents of the subdivision where Arbery was killed told investigators they had seen him running in the neighborhood previously.

Dial said the three defendants are the only known witnesses to the shooting and investigators have found no other video of Arbery’s final moments other than what Bryan recorded.

Arbery was killed Feb. 23 after Travis McMichael, 34, and his father, Greg McMichael, 64, gave chase when they spotted the 25-year-old black man running in their neighborhood. Bryan said he saw them driving by and joined the chase, Dial said. It wasn’t until May 7 — two days after Bryan’s cellphone video leaked online and stirred a national outcry — that the defendants were charged.

The McMichaels both wore masks as they sat side-by-side watching the hearing onscreen at the Glynn County jail. The judge rejected defense motions to have them brought to the courtroom, citing emergency precautions because of the coronavirus pandemic. Bryan waived his presence at the hearing.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

FILE: The sun sets as a rainstorm blows over Delicate Arch in Arches National Park near Moab on Sat...
Devin Oldroyd

Body found in Arches National Park Saturday

rand County Sheriff's Office reports the body of a female was found in Arches National Park Saturday, Oct. 1.
1 day ago
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said that he will vote against any potential congressional d...
Devan Cole, CNN

Rubio vows to oppose potential Hurricane Ian aid package if lawmakers ‘load it up with stuff that’s unrelated to the storm’

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said he will vote against any potential congressional disaster aid for victims of Hurricane Ian if lawmakers "load it up with stuff that's unrelated to the storm."
1 day ago
Photo credit: Lisa Wall Jones...
Devin Oldroyd

Fatal car crash closes southbound I-15 in Washington County

Southbound I-15 closed at mile marker 34, following a fatal car crash Sunday. Closure time is estimated to be two to three hours.
1 day ago
The National Weather Service issues a severe thunderstorm warning in parts of Grand County. Photo c...
Devin Oldroyd

NWS issues severe thunderstorm warning in Grand County

The National Weather Service sent out a severe thunderstorm warning in parts of Grand County. Half-dollar-sized hail is being reported.
1 day ago
Temple Square...
Devin Oldroyd

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announces the construction of 18 new temples

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the construction of 18 new temples.
1 day ago
The new monuments at This is the place heritage park....
Devin Oldroyd

Progress in 175 years: Discovering new stories of Utah’s pioneers

Mary Richards with the Church News returns to KSL NewsRadio to celebrate lesser-known stories of Utah Pioneers
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
large group of friends tohether in a park having fun...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

What differentiates BYU’s MBA program from other MBA programs

Commitment to service is at the heart of BYU’s MBA program, which makes it stand out among other MBA programs across the country.
a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Testimony: Shooter used racist slur as Arbery lay dying