Investigators with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations on Thursday laid out more details about the moments leading up to the death of Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, Georgia back in February. The new revelations came during a probable cause hearing in Brunswick, Georgia for Gregory McMichael, his son Travis, and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, who have all been charged with murder in Arbery’s death.
Much of the testimony came from GBI agent Richard Dial, and none of it looks good for the McMichaels, who’ve claimed that Travis McMichael fired a shotgun in self-defense when Arbery charged him after the McMichaels and Bryan had attempted to stop the 26-year old after they saw him running down the street. The McMichaels have claimed that they wanted to question Arbery about burglarizing a home under construction in the neighborhood where Travis McMichaels lived, though nothing was taken from the construction site and the home’s owner has said he never asked the McMichaels to watch over his property.
Dial says after investigating, it’s his belief that it was Ahmaud Arbery, not Travis McMichaels, who was acting in self-defense when the deadly confrontation began.
At first, the three men tried several times to “pin” Arbery between their trucks, Dial said, pointing to DNA evidence from Arbery found on Bryan’s truck and witness statements. Each time, Arbery tried to run around the trucks, jump out of the way, or run in a different direction.
After several attempts to avoid the white pick-up truck—occupied by Gregory in the truck’s bed and Travis aiming his shotgun out the driver’s side door—Arbery changed directions and then made “a decision to engage” with Travis, Dial said.
Bryan’s now-infamous footage showed Arbery trying to evade the McMichaels’ truck one last time before a shot was fired. The first shot hit Arbery in the chest, contradicting Travis’ claim that he shot Arbery’s hand during a struggle, Dial said. The footage showed Travis and Arbery getting into a scuffle. Arbery was then shot another two times by Travis, hitting his left armpit and right wrist.
“He ran until he couldn’t run anymore. When he felt like he could not escape, he chose to fight,” Dial said.
Attorneys for the McMichaels questioned Dial about the possibility that Travis McMichael was acting to defend his life when he fired a shotgun blast that hit Arbery in the chest, but the investigator made it clear that the facts don’t fit a self-defense claim.
Travis McMichael’s defense attorney Jason Sheffield, cross-examined Dial, asking questions about Arbery’s “mental history” and about indications the McMichaels were acting in self-defense.
Sheffield pointed out that Arbery tried to grab the driver’s side door of the McMichaels’ truck at one point, and that Travis told authorities he’d been struck by Arbery after the first shot was fired.
However, Dial said Travis had no visible injuries and Arbery was, he believed, attempting to do anything to escape being pursued by the three men.
“I don’t believe it was self defense by Mr. McMichael,” Dial said. “I believe it was self-defense by Mr. Arbery.”
I’ve reserved judgement about the McMichaels character and whether or not race played a role in their pursuit of Arbery, but Dial’s testimony revealed more damaging information about the mindset and racial attitudes of the father and son. Dial says eyewitnesses, including Bryan, reported that Travis McMichael called Arbery a “f***ing n****r” as he lay dying on the sun-dappled street after being hit with three shotgun blasts fired at a close distance by McMichael.
Dial said on Thursday that Travis had a Confederate sticker on his truck and had used the n-word many other times. Travis once wrote on Instagram that it would have been better “if they had blown that fucking n—ers head off.” He also once said he loved his job because he was on a boat and there were no “n—ers” anywhere.
According to Dial, Gregory McMichael told investigators that he had no direct knowledge that Arbery had committed a burglary, but took off after the man because he had a “gut feeling” that the 25-year old was a suspect. That will cut against any claim by the McMichaels that they were attempting a lawful citizens arrest, because Georgia law explicitly states that such an arrest can only take place if a crime has been committed within the individual’s presence or “within his immediate knowledge.” Gregory and Travis McMichael had no such knowledge, nor did they have “reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion” that Arbery had committed a felony crime that day. Gregory McMichael himself told investigators that it was just a “gut feeling” that led to him and his son taking off after Arbery in Travis McMichael’s truck.
During the hearing, a defense attorney argued that “any American” would have done the same thing as the McMichaels, which is absurd on its face. As I’ve argued, the McMichaels and Bryan were acting more like killer Karens when they took off after Arbery instead of simply dialing 911 to report suspicious behavior. We don’t regularly have guys chasing people they think might have committed a burglary weeks earlier in this country, and attempting to explain away their actions as something that any normal, red-blooded American would-do didn’t convince the judge, who Thursday afternoon found probably cause to bound Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan over for trial on felony murder charges.