Prosecutors describe racial slur as Ahmaud Arbery lay dying
A special prosecutor for the state of Georgia said Thursday that evidence in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery shows the young black man was repeatedly boxed in by two pickup trucks as he desperately tried to escape.
The lead Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent says a white man then shot him in the chest, the first of three shots with a pump-action shotgun. Agent Richard Dial testified that the driver of the second pickup truck, Roddie Bryan, said Travis McMichael then stood over Arbery’s body and said a racial epithet before police arrived.
The evidence was presented to support murder charges against McMichael and his father as well as Bryan. It also could factor into a federal investigation into whether hate crime charges are warranted.
The three men charged with murder in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia face a hearing to determine whether authorities have enough evidence to send the case to a trial court.
The hearing Thursday follows a week of angry protests in the U.S. over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Defense attorneys requested the proceeding to make prosecutors show whether they have probable cause to charge the men with murder.
Arbery was killed Feb. 23 after a white father and son armed themselves and gave chase when they spotted the 25-year-old black man running in their neighborhood just outside the port city of Brunswick.
It wasn’t until May 7 that those men — Greg McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34 — were charged with felony murder and aggravated assault. The McMichaels’ arrests came two days after cellphone video of the shooting leaked online and stirred a national outcry.
The neighbor who recorded the video, 50-year-old William “Roddie” Bryan, was also arrested and charged with felony murder and illegally using a vehicle to try to confine and detain Arbery.
Georgia law defines felony murder as a killing caused by the commission of an underlying felony. It does not require intent to kill. The minimum penalty is life in prison with a chance of parole.
Before he was fatally shot, Ahmaud Arbery’s life was at a crossroads, with his troubles largely behind him.
Protests following the deaths of Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., and Arbery have led to outbreaks of violence in many larger cities, including Atlanta. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp promised a “strong state law enforcement presence” in the Brunswick area Thursday to coincide with the court hearing.
Greg McMichael told police after the shooting in February that he suspected Arbery of committing break-ins in the neighborhood. He said Arbery attacked his son before being shot.
Arbery’s family has said he was merely out jogging. The former high school football player ran to stay in shape and lived less than two miles from the subdivision where he was killed. His mother said he planned to start technical college in the fall to become an electrician.
Defense attorneys for both McMichaels have said much remains unknown about what led to the shooting and have cautioned against rushing to judgment. An attorney for Bryan has said he was merely a witness to Arbery’s death.
All three defendants remain jailed in Glynn County.
Start your day right
Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.