BRUNSWICK (Ga.) -- Ahmaud was shot and killed by Ahmaud Arbery on Wednesday. He testified that he was forced to make a split-second decision about his life or death. Ahmaud attacked him and grabbed his gun.
Travis McMichael, who was still in tears, told the jury that he had been thinking about his son just moments before he pulled the trigger. It sounds strange, but it's what I felt first.
He was the first witness to be called by defense attorneys for the three white defendants in Arbery’s death. They argued that their clients were trying to stop burglaries within their neighborhood, and that McMichael opened firing in self-defense.
After Arbery was seen running in defendants' area, the shooting of Arbery on February 23, 2020 triggered a national outcry about racial injustice. Two months later, cellphone video of his murder went online. The family of the slain man received support from civil right activists as well as from high-ranking figures like President Joe Biden and Georgia's governor.
Travis McMichael, his father Greg McMichael and William Bryan are the three defendants in this case. Their attorneys have not provided any defense. Travis McMichael's testimony was the most detailed and personal account of the reasons the men accused Arbery of wrongdoing, and McMichael shooting him.
"He had my gun," McMichael, 35, testified. "He struck me. He was clearly attacking me. If he had taken the shotgun from my hand, this would have been a matter of life and death. I was going to have to stop him.
He stated that social media chatter and warnings from neighbors about car burglaries and suspicious people have been growing since 2018, when he moved in to Satilla Shores with his parents just outside of Brunswick.
After items were stolen from his boat, a man who was building a house just five doors from McMichaels set up security cameras. The cameras captured Arbery inside for four nights, and the day he died.
Travis McMichael stated that he knew about the theft when he saw Arbery, who he didn’t know, "lurking” and "creeping" outside of the unfinished house on February 11, 2020. Arbery grabbed his waistband when McMichael tried to confront him. McMichael ran and dialed 911.
He testified that he was not going to pursue or investigate anyone who might be armless.
He did chase the man 12 days later after his father ran into their home in "almost an frantic state", and told him that the "man who had been breaking down the road" had passed their house. Travis McMichael, Travis's pickup truck driver, armed his son and took off.
McMichael claimed that he drove alongside Arbery, shouting at him to stop, so they could speak. McMichael claimed that Arbery ran faster after McMichael told him "police are on their way". This only increased his suspicion.
Bryan drove a Black pickup truck, which eventually joined the chase. Bryan recorded the entire shooting using his cellphone.
McMichael stopped his truck and got out. Bryan's cellphone video shows Arbery running towards the truck. McMichael stands with his shotgun at the driver's sidedoor and his father in his truck bed.
McMichael stated that he pointed his gun towards Arbery, stating his intention to get him back off. Arbery then turned around and ran to the passenger side.
McMichael stated that Arbery attacked McMichael immediately: "He is at the front quarter panel, right hand side, and he turns to me. It's on in a flash.
The truck blocks the view of the camera until the first gunshot is fired. As McMichael is bleeding, McMichael is seen with his hands on the gun. Arbery then turns to run and falls facefirst in the street after the third shot.
According to the medical examiner, only two shotgun blasts struck Arbery. However, each one was close at hand. One of the shots punched him in the chest. One of his arteries was cut near his left armpit, and the other fractured his arm.
Authorities claim that Bryan and McMichaels chased Arbery for five minute before the shooting. They used their trucks to stop Arbery from fleeing. Greg McMichael said that they "trapped him like a rats." Bryan claimed that he used his truck several times to drive Arbery off the roads.
Arbery's mother Wanda Cooper-Jones spoke to reporters outside the courthouse and said that Mr. Travis McMichael murdered my son all because of assumptions. He had no idea where Ahmaud was from or what Ahmaud had done. He took his actions into his own hands."
Kevin Gough, Bryan's lawyer, stated Wednesday that Bryan did not intend to harm Arbery or hide his involvement in the pursuit. Bryan shared his video, the most important piece of evidence, with the police officers on the scene.
The defense started its case after Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley denied defense attorneys' request to ban prominent civil right leaders from the courtroom. This was due to COVID-19 precautions that limited seating in the courtroom.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson was present in court with Arbery's parents for the second week. According to the defendants' lawyers, Jackson's presence as well as that of other supporters of convictions could influence the jury.
The trial will take place in front of a disproportionately-white jury at Glynn County Courthouse in coastal Georgia.
Arbery was 25 years old and had just enrolled in a technical college. He was about to study to be an electrician like his uncles, when he was shot.