An investigator accused the man who shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery of using a racial slur after the incident.
The lead Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent on the case described Arbery’s final moments in detail during a pretrial hearing on Thursday. Special Agent Richard Dial was the sole witness called that day. The defense attorneys for Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael and William Bryan requested the session to make the prosecution prove there is probable cause for the charges.
During the hearing, Dial testified Bryan told him Travis McMichael called Arbery a “f——g n—-r” after he shot him to death three times on Feb. 23. Bryan reportedly made the accusation on May 13 but did not mention it during another interview two days before.
However, Dial said, Travis McMichael used the n-word “numerous times” on social media and a Confederate flag sticker was seen on his toolbox.
Dial said the trio pursued Arbery because they believed he fit the description of a suspected burglar in their Brunswick, Georgia, neighborhood. When George McMichael spotted Arbery, he alerted his son and they got in a pickup truck to pursue him. George McMichael was armed with a handgun and his son had a shotgun.
Bryan joined after he saw the McMichaels chasing Arbery, according to Dial, and asked “Do you got him?” A handprint on the door of Bryan’s truck and fibers recovered from a dent suggest Arbery was hit by the vehicle. He managed to keep running but he was eventually trapped.
The GBI agent said Bryan “made several statements about trying to block him in and using his vehicle to try to stop him.”
“His statement was that Mr. Arbery kept jumping out of the way and moving around the bumper and actually running down into the ditch in an attempt to avoid his truck,” Dial explained.
The McMichaels previously claimed Arbery was shot in self-defense but Dial disagreed.
“I believe Mr. Arbery was being pursued, and he ran till he couldn’t run anymore, and it was turn his back to a man with a shotgun or fight with his bare hands against the man with the shotgun. He chose to fight,” he said. “I believe Mr. Arbery’s decision was to just try to get away, and when he felt like he could not escape he chose to fight.”
None of the suspects have entered pleas, but their lawyers insisted their clients are innocent and they will prove it in court.
“Travis has been vilified before his voice could even be heard,” the team said in a statement to CNN. “The truth in this case will exonerate Travis.”
George McMichael’s lawyer said he is a victim of rash judgment. Arbery’s demise was one of the catalysts for the unrest sweeping the country. The McMichaels weren’t arrested until May 7, two days after a video of Arbery’s death was leaked to the media. Bryan filmed that video and insisted he was an innocent bystander in interviews with the media. He was eventually arrested on May 22.
The McMichaels appeared in court on Thursday via teleconference, and Bryan waived his right to appear.