BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — A state investigator alleged Thursday that a white man was heard saying a racist slur as he stood over Ahmaud Arbery’s body, moments after killing him with three shots from a pump-action 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.
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 again 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. Dial said Bryan gave investigators the information a week after the McMichaels’ arrest, and there’s no indication he said it to Glynn County investigators before that.
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.
“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.”
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.