Ahmaud Arbery: 5 things you need to know about murder trial for killing Black man
On the day of the shooting, defendant Travis McMichael reportedly called 911 to report there was a man in a house under construction
Of the many killings that propelled the Black Lives Matter movement and widespread racial justice protests in 2020, Ahmaud Arbery’s is particularly horrifying. The trial for his murder is set to begin Monday, October 18. On February 23, 2020, three White men shot and killed the 25-year old Black man as he was jogging down a residential street.
Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and their neighbor William ‘Roddie’ Bryan Jr are charged with malice and felony murder and have pleaded not guilty. They also face charges of aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
Here’s all you need to know about the case before jury selection in their state trial begins Monday:
Who was Ahmaud Arbery?
Arbery, 25, as per reports, played flag football at Brunswick High School. He attended South Georgia Technical College for about a year and a half but stopped because of financial problems. Arbery's childhood friend Akeem Baker remembered him as a funny, likable man. "He’s the type of person that loves to make jokes," said Baker, who plans to be in the courtroom during the trial. "I looked at Maud like a brother."
Where did it happen?
Arbery lived about two miles from Satilla Shores subdivision just outside Brunswick, Georgia, across U.S. Route 17. The neighborhood where he was killed was one of his regular running paths because he could stay off the highway. As per NPR, residents had grown suspicious of Arbery, after repeatedly spotting him entering a new home construction site. They suspected him of recent break-ins.
On the day of the shooting, defendant Travis McMichael reportedly called 911 to report there was a man in a house under construction. "There he goes right now," he said on the recording. "Running down the street." The dispatcher said she would send police but asked, "I just need to know what he was doing wrong?" A second 911 call was made by Travis' father, Gregory McMichael, also a defendant. "There's a Black male running down the street," he said.
The brutal killing
Arbery was fatally shot on February 23, 2020. The incident was partly captured on video. The McMichaels said they were conducting a citizen's arrest on Arbery. Travis McMichael shot him with a shotgun in self-defense. Bryan, who recorded the video, allegedly hit Arbery with his truck after he joined the McMichaels in chasing Arbery. Arbery was shot three times at close range with a shotgun.
In the short clip, a white pickup blocks the view of the beginning of the struggle. A gunshot is heard, then Arbery and Travis are seen with their hands on a weapon that is angled upward, toward Arbery. The struggle again goes out of view and Gregory is seen in the back of the truck. A second shot is heard, and the camera shifts back to the fight where Arbery is throwing punches. A third gunshot is heard, and Arbery falls to the ground.
The defendants claim they never meant to kill Arbery and followed him on the belief that he was behind neighborhood break-ins, then fired in self-defense. Security camera footage showed Arbery entering a house that was under construction shortly before the McMichaels confronted him, but police found no stolen items on his body.
As per the Washington Post, for more than two months after the 25-year-old’s death in February 2020, there were no arrests in the case. Reportedly, after the shooting, the three men were allowed to leave the scene and weren't arrested until after video of the incident was made public in early May. The video and the delay in making the arrests, along with the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor last year, were catalyzing forces in the Black Lives Matter protests nationwide last year.
The McMichaels and Bryan have also been indicted on federal hate crime and attempted kidnapping charges. They have pleaded not guilty to those charges as well. As per the daily, defense attorneys claim that their clients have been unfairly villainized and that race had nothing to do with their actions. Recently, they’ve been fighting to keep jurors from seeing a photo of Travis McMichael’s license plate, which features an old Georgia flag with the Confederate battle emblem.
At a preliminary hearing last June, Georgia Bureau of Investigation Assistant Special Agent in Charge Richard Dial testified that 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.
"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."
As per Bobby Henderson, co-founder of A Better Glynn, a grassroots group formed last year in response to Arbery's killing, "Here we are in the south and we witnessed a lynching. How far are we from 1892? That's what's on the line."