- Travis McMichael, the first witness for the defense, told jurors he wanted to testify to share “his side of the story” in the fatal Georgia shooting of Ahmaud Arbery.
- McMichael stated that McMichael knew he was on him, and that it was threatening to end his life. He was dominating me, I knew this.”
- In his opening statement, William “Roddie” Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, told jurors that evidence would show his client “did not intend to harm Mr. Arbery.”
BRUNSWICK, Ga. — One of the three men charged with murder in the death of Ahmaud Arbery began crying on the stand Wednesday as he described the final moments of his fatal confrontation with Arbery.
Travis McMichael who was seen video recording and shooting Arbery at Satilla Shores in Brunswick on February 23, 2020 was the first witness. McMichael was unable to speak for three hours and then broke down after describing what he called the “most traumatic experience” in his life.
McMichael stated, “It was evident that he was attacking my, and that if he got the shotgun away from me it would have been a life or death situation.”
McMichael said that he would testify in order to tell jurors “his side” of the story. McMichael was asked by his attorney to explain what made him believe Arbery was dangerous and how he stopped him. The prosecution, meanwhile, opened its cross-examination by emphasizing that McMichael made assumptions based on incomplete information.
McMichael stated, “I want you to understand what has happened.”
McMichael said his father, Gregory, who also faces murder charges, was in a “frantic state” after spotting Arbery running in their neighborhood and identified him as “the same guy” seen entering a neighbor’s home under construction.
McMichael got his shotgun, and went out to see neighbor Matt Albenze pointed down the road. McMichael believed that Albenze saw Arbery entering or stealing the building site.
“My father told me, ‘The guy, from the other night,’” McMichael said. “I assumed he was correct, but I wanted to verify.”
Asked during cross-examination if he told his father to calm down when he ran into the house, McMichael said no.
McMichael stated that McMichael assumed his father had called 911 as they chased Arbery’s pickup truck.
Before he pulled up next to Arbery, McMichael said he recognized him based on his haircut. McMichael said he told Arbery to “please” stop three times.
Linda Dunikoski (prosecutor) stated in cross-examination that McMichael had not intended to arrest Arbery.
“Not once during your direct examination did you state that your intention was to effectuate an arrest of Mr. Arbery until your attorney asked you that leading question. Isn’t that right?” Dunikoski asked.
“Yes,” McMichael said.
Dunikoski asked if he learned from his time in the military that “you can’t force people to speak to you,” and McMichael answered, “That’s correct.”
“And if someone walks away, you have to let them walk away?” Dunikoski said.
“Yes,” McMichael said.
McMichael described Arbery as “very angry” and said he suspected he may be armed.
Later, McMichael said he told Arbery the police were on the way, prompting Arbery to turn and run.
As his father climbed into the back of the pickup, McMichael said he saw Arbery interacting with a black pickup, which he learned belonged to William “Roddie” Bryan, the other defendant in the case.
At one point, he said it appeared Arbery was trying to get into Bryan’s truck, a claim Bryan also made to investigators.
McMichael claimed he was lost in sight Bryan and Arbery’s truck and parked his car near his house and got out. He saw Arbery coming toward him “like a running back,” He grabbed his shotgun, and dialed 911.
McMichael declared, “I’m quite certain he is going to strike.”
McMichael claimed that Arbery took the shotgun and struck McMichael. He became very emotional when he revealed to jurors that he thought about his son moments before firing first shot.
McMichael explained, “I was aware that he was watching me. He was threatening to take my life.” I knew he was a powerful man.
McMichael said during cross-examination that he stored his shotguns with the safety on and the action bar lock down, meaning he needed to take the safety off and push the action bar lock up to fire a shot.
“When he was on top of me, I disengaged the safety and pulled the trigger,” McMichael said
McMichael said he initially believed he shot Arbery twice but learned he fired three shots. Arbery was autopsied by the medical examiner.
He stated, “He was all around me, and he was allover that shotgun. I shot again in an effort to stop him.” “The final shot was his disengagement, at which point he turned to continue running.”
After the shooting, McMichael said, the police arrived and he put his shotgun down.
McMichael, who was in tears, said that “After this, it was all a blur.”
Travis McMichael testifies on neighborhood crime and Coast Guard training
McMichael told defense attorneys he moved into the neighborhood in 2018 and grew concerned about car break-ins, “suspicious persons” and the theft of his pistol. McMichael claimed he used to talk about crime with neighbours, who had surveillance cameras installed on his houses. His family included his father Greg.
“It was a common occurrence at that point,” he said. “It was concerning that nothing was done … concerning that you have to have that constant presence.”
McMichael said surveillance video at neighbor Larry English’s home led him to believe the same person was repeatedly entering the property under construction and items had been stolen.
On Feb. 11, McMichael said, he saw a man “lurking” outside English’s home. McMichael was led to believe he was an armed man when he said that the man reached for his pants. McMichael then ran into the empty house.
He said that it had “frightened me”, and told his father. Then he called the police. “I won’t chase someone who could be armed.”
Asked during cross-examination whether he had “incomplete information” about who was committing crimes in Satilla Shores, McMichael said “yes.”
“I did make assumptions at that point until February 11th, when I saw what I saw that evening,” McMichael said.
McMichael also testified about his U.S. Coast Guard training, describing six levels on the use-of-force continuum. He was a mechanic in the service, did search-and-rescue work and sometimes worked with law enforcement from 2007 to 2016.
McMichael was told by his attorneys that there was probable cause for him to believe Arbery was burglary and that his Coast Guard training was part of the reason he justified firing his gun.
According to attorney, William ‘Roddie’ Bryan “did not mean to harm Mr. Arbery.”
In his opening statement earlier Wednesday, defense attorney Kevin Gough told jurors that evidence would show his client, William “Roddie” Bryan, did not intend to hurt Arbery the day he was killed.
Gough said that although Bryan admitted trying to block Arbery’s path, there is no physical evidence from the road where Arbery was killed to suggest Bryan was driving aggressively or attempting to assault him with his truck.
Kevin Gough, defense attorney He wants Ahmaud Abery to be thrown out by Black pastors.
“The evidence will show Mr. Bryan did not intend to harm Mr. Arbery,” Gough said. He regretted that Mr. Arbery was injured.
Gough began his opening statement by trying to separate his client from his co-defendants. Two months later, Arbery died in a shooting accident that Bryan recorded on his cellphone. Bryan released the footage to Bryan’s cell phone. Bryan also was charged with other murder charges.
He said Arbery did not call out to Bryan for help as he was chased by the McMichaels despite the fact that Bryan’s home looked like “something out of a Norman Rockwell painting.”
Gough stated to the jury that Bryan didn’t arm himself before jumping into his truck and following Arbery. He said Bryan followed Arbery to document his path for the police.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Jason Secrist testified Friday that Bryan “minimized” his involvement in the events leading up to Arbery’s death by changing “the descriptive words” he used between an initial interview with Glynn County police and an interview with Secrist months later.
Gough stated Wednesday that Bryan would not have been involved if he wanted to reduce his involvement. He also said that Bryan had deleted his phone and video from the case.
He said, “Mr. Bryan was the reason that we have this evidence.”