‘I just killed a man’: defendant who fatally shot Ahmaud Arbery testifies

Testimony resumed at the trial of the men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery resumed in Brunswick, Georgia, on Thursday, as the Rev Al Sharpton planned to return for a rally with a large group of Black ministers.

Last week, a defense attorney intensified frustrations in the coastal Georgia community when he said he didn’t want “any more Black pastors” sitting in the Glynn county courtroom with Arbery’s family.

Attorney Kevin Gough asked the judge to remove Sharpton, saying the civil rights activist was trying to influence the jury, which is disproportionately white. The judge refused, and later called Gough’s remarks “reprehensible”.

The Rev Jesse Jackson once again joined Arbery’s family in the courtroom on Thursday.

The man who fatally shot Arbery on 23 February 2020 testified on Thursday that the 25-year-old Black man’s demeanor struck him as suspicious when he pulled up beside him in his truck to ask what he was doing in the Satilla Shores neighborhood.

Travis McMichael said neighbors indicated something had happened and he wanted to ask Arbery about it, but when he told Arbery the police were on the way Arbery began to run.

McMichael acknowledged Arbery didn’t pull out a weapon or threaten him in any way and indicated several times he didn’t want to talk.

Asked how many times he had pulled up behind strangers in the neighborhood to ask them what they were doing there, McMichael said never.

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski pressed McMichael on why he didn’t include some details of his testimony in his written statement to police, namely the part about telling Arbery police were on the way. Travis said he was “under stress, nervous, scared” at the time of his police interview and “probably being choppy”.

“What were you nervous about?” Dunikoski asked.

“I just killed a man,” McMichael said. “I had blood on myself. It was the most traumatic event of my life.”

“You were nervous because you thought you were going to jail, right?” Dunikoski asked.

“No. I gave them a statement,” McMichael said.

It was McMichael’s second day of testimony, a day after he told the jury Arbery forced him to make a “life-or-death” decision by attacking him and grabbing his shotgun.

It is the first time any of the three white men charged with murder in Arbery’s death has spoken publicly about the killing.

Prosecutors contend there was no justification for McMichael and his father, Greg McMichael, to arm themselves and chase Arbery when he ran past their Georgia home. The shooting deepened a national outcry over racial injustice after video leaked online.

McMichael and his father pursued Arbery in a pickup truck after he ran past their home from a nearby house under construction. A neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, joined the chase and recorded the video.

The McMichaels told police they suspected Arbery was a burglar because security cameras had recorded him several times in the unfinished house.

Prosecutors say the men chased Arbery for five minutes and used their trucks to stop him fleeing before Travis McMichael shot him. They say there’s no evidence Arbery – who had enrolled to study to become an electrician – had committed any crimes.

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