The Ahmaud Arbery trial entered closing arguments on Monday, and a jury will soon decide whether to convict the man who pursued him through the neighborhood, the man’s son — who shot him after the chase — and the neighbor who joined the duo and filmed it from behind.
Although Arbery, 25, died in February of last year, the case drew a national profile after a video of his final moments circulated online. The video was leaked to local media by an attorney who informally consulted with one of the suspects, purportedly to set the narrative straight on what did and did not happen.
The video shows Arbery running down the street, in the direction of a white pickup truck. Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael, who are father and son, can be seen waiting at the truck, armed. When Arbery approaches the truck, he goes around the passenger side, and a struggle begins between him and Travis McMichael, who is holding a shotgun. Arbery is shot in the physical confrontation between them and is killed.
William “Roddie” Bryan, the neighbor who recorded the video from behind after joining the pursuit, has also been charged.
“All three of these defendants made assumptions about what was going on that day,” said lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski. “And they made their decision to attack Ahmaud Arbery in their driveways, because he was a Black man running down the street.”
Gregory McMichael told police on the day of the shooting that he and his son followed Arbery because they believed he was the suspect in a recent string of thefts. He also told police that, at one point in the chase, someone tried to intercept Arbery.
He described Arbery as “hauling ass,” and said he and his son grabbed weapons because they didn’t know if the man was armed or not.
During the trial, defense lawyers said Travis McMichael acted out of duty, and that Gregory McMichael had probable cause to perform a citizen’s arrest, given that Arbery had previously been recorded in the house in question, which was under construction. An attorney for Gregory McMichael said during closing arguments that her client was “certain” he saw an intruder that day, “way more knowledge than they needed to detain Ahmaud Arbery to execute a citizen’s arrest,” reports CBS News.
Notably, the law in Georgia at the time required someone to be in “immediate knowledge” of a crime to perform a citizen’s arrest. The law has since been repealed.
“You are allowed to defend yourself. You are allowed to use force that is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury if you believe it’s necessary,” Jason Sheffield, a defense attorney for Travis McMichael, told the jury during closing arguments. “At that moment Travis believed it was necessary. This is a law that is for a person in Travis’s situation.”
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