(Trends Wide) — Three white men accused of hunting down and killing Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who had gone out for a run, will be tried for murder in Georgia this week in a case fraught with issues of racism, self-defense claims and a video. recorded with cell phone.
Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and his neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. are charged with malice and wrongful death and have pleaded not guilty. They also face charges of aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
Jury selection in his state trial begins Monday.
Arbery was fatally shot on February 23, 2020, while running in Brunswick, Georgia, in an incident partially captured on video. The McMichaels said they were carrying out the arrest of Arbery Citizen, whom they suspected of robbery, and that Travis McMichael shot him with a shotgun in self-defense.
Bryan, who shot the video, allegedly hit Arbery with his truck after he joined the McMichaels in chasing Arbery.
After the shooting, the three men were allowed to leave the scene and were not arrested until video of the incident was released in early May.
The video and the delay in making the arrests, along with the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor last year, helped fuel Black Lives Matter protests across the country that challenged the way the legal system treats citizens. blacks.
McMichaels and Bryan have also been charged with federal hate crimes and attempted kidnapping. They have also pleaded not guilty to those charges.
The similarities of the Arbery case to the crimes of Floyd and Martin
With its focus on video evidence, the case bears some resemblance to the murder trial of former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of Floyd’s murder. Additionally, vigilantism and self-defense issues bear similarities to the trial of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watchman who was acquitted in 2013 of the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Arbery was shot and killed in a confrontation with Travis and Gregory McMichael in the Satilla Shores neighborhood outside the city of Brunswick in lower Georgia.
Arbery was jogging, something he was known to do, according to those who knew him, when the McMichaels grabbed his guns and chased him. Gregory McMichael, a former police officer and investigator for the local District Attorney’s Office, later told police that Arbery and his son had fought over the shotgun, and that Arbery was shot by Travis McMichael after the latter attacked him, according to the initial police report.
Bryan had also joined the chase and recorded the shooting on his cell phone.
Gregory McMichael told police that he and his son had pursued Arbery because they suspected he was responsible for a series of recent alleged robberies in the neighborhood. A Glynn County Police spokesman later said there had been only one robbery, a weapon stolen from a keyless vehicle in front of the McMichaels’ home, reported more than seven weeks before the shooting.
Additionally, McMichael said he saw Arbery inside a home under construction. Arbery was seen entering the home on surveillance video at the site, but the homeowner told Trends Wide that he did not see Arbery commit any crime other than “trespassing” on the day of the shooting.
For months, the case lay dormant and two prosecutors withdrew due to conflicts of interest.
But in May, Bryan’s video of the fatal interaction was made public and the McMichaels were arrested days later.
The three were jointly indicted by a grand jury in June 2020. At a preliminary hearing last June, Deputy Special Agent in Charge of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, Richard Dial, testified that Bryan told investigators that overheard Travis McMichael use a racial slur after shooting Arbery.
McMichael had also used racial slurs numerous times on social media and messaging services, Dial said. Attorneys for the three defendants have said they acted in self-defense. But Dial testified otherwise.
“I think Mr. Arbery was being chased, and he ran until he couldn’t run anymore, and it was turning his back on a man with a shotgun or fighting with his bare hands against the man with the shotgun. He chose to fight,” he said. “I think Mr. Arbery’s decision was to simply try to escape, and when he felt he couldn’t escape, he decided to fight.”
The district attorney at the time, Jackie Johnson, was removed from office amid the backlash. In September, she was charged with violating her oath as a public servant and obstructing a police officer for allegedly interfering with the arrest of Travis McMichael. Johnson has denied wrongdoing.
Trends Wide’s Eliott McLaughlin and Amir Vera contributed to this report.