BRUNSWICK, Georgia – One of three white men on trial for the death of Ahmaud Arbery said they “trapped like a rat” the 25-year-old black man before he was fatally shot, said Wednesday a police investigator.
Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael armed themselves and chased Arbery in a van after spotting him running around their coastal Georgia neighborhood on February 23, 2020. A neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, joined in. the chase in his own truck and took a cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery three times at close range with a shotgun.
More than two months passed before the three men were arrested for murder and other crimes, after the graphic video was leaked online and a national judgment on racial injustice deepened.
Glynn County Police Sgt. Roderic Nohilly told the jury on Wednesday he spoke to Greg McMichael at police headquarters hours after the shooting. He said Greg McMichael, 65, told him Arbery “wasn’t out for the Sunday jog. He didn’t care. “
The father told Nohilly that he recognized Arbery because he had been recorded multiple times by security cameras inside a nearby house under construction. Greg McMichael said they sued to try to stop Arbery from escaping the subdivision.
“He was trapped like a rat,” Greg McMichael said, according to a transcript of their taped interview that Nohilly read in court. “I think he wanted to run away and he realized that something, you know, he wasn’t going to escape.”
Defense attorneys say the McMichaels and Bryans were legally justified in suing and trying to detain Arbery because they reasonably believed he was a burglar. Greg McMichael told police that Travis McMichael, 35, shot in self-defense as Arbery attacked with his fists and tried to grab his son’s shotgun.
“He had a chance to get away further, you know,” Greg McMichael told Nohilly. “We had chased him around the neighborhood a bit, but he wasn’t out of breath at all. I mean this guy was, he was in good shape.
Prosecutors say the McMichaels and Bryan chased Arbery for five minutes before he was shot in the street after passing the idling McMichaels truck. Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski described him as an “avid runner” who lived about 2 miles from the Satilla Shores neighborhood where he was killed.
Bryan, 52, was on his porch when he saw Arbery pass by with the McMichaels’ truck up close. He told the police that he didn’t recognize any of them, or that he didn’t know what triggered the chase, but joined him anyway after shouting, “You all got it. ?
Bryan said he used his truck several times to cut Arbery off the road, testified Stephan Lowrey, the Glynn County Police chief investigator in the case. He said police found Arbery’s fingerprints near the driver’s side door of the truck, next to a gash in the body. Bryan said Arbery tried to open the door, but denied hitting the running man.
“I didn’t hit him,” Bryan said, according to the transcript of an interview Lowrey read in court. “I wish I had done it. He could have pulled him out and not shot him.
Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, asked the investigator if he believed Bryan had committed aggravated assault or other “serious violent crime” with his truck.
“No, that was not the way I interpreted it at the time,” said Lowrey, who agreed that local police viewed Bryan as a witness to the shooting.
Glynn County Police made no arrests in the Arbery shooting. But Lowrey said he had not closed the case when the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over him in May.
“It was still open but wasn’t getting a lot of traction,” Lowrey said. He added: “I think inactive was a fair summary.”
Reverend Al Sharpton spoke to reporters on Wednesday outside the Glynn County Courthouse, where he held the hands of Arbery’s parents while leading a prayer for justice. Sharpton criticized the jury’s disproportionate makeup.
Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley allowed the jury to be sworn in last week after opposition from prosecutors, saying several potential black jurors had been excluded on the basis of their race, leaving only one black juror out of the 12 panel. The county where the trial is taking place is nearly 27% black.
“It’s an insult to the intelligence of the American people,” Sharpton said. “If you can count to 12 and get only one that’s black, you know something’s wrong.”
In court, another neighbor, Matthew Albenze, said he was chopping logs in his yard before the day of the shooting when he saw Arbery enter the house under construction across the street.
Albenze said on Wednesday he walked into his house and put a handgun in his pocket before calling police from behind a tree by the sidewalk. Arbery ran out of the house to the McMichaels’ house while Albenze was on the phone.
Albenze told the jury he called the police non-emergency number. Dunikoski asked him: Why not 911?
He replied, “I didn’t see an emergency.”
On the witness stand on Wednesday, Nohilly fended off one of Greg McMichael’s attorneys who questioned whether raising a gun would be an appropriate response to a fleeing suspect who refused verbal orders to stop.
“You’re going to draw your gun sometimes, don’t you?” Asked lawyer Franklin Hogue.
Nohilly replied, “I’m not just pulling out my gun.”
Hogue then asked, “At some point if the person is going to attack you, you will use your weapon. “
“It depends on how he attacks me,” Nohilly said.
Hogue then asked him if the assailant was trying to remove his weapon.
“At this point he could hit the threshold, yes,” the police sergeant said.