Four days before William “Roddie” Bryan chased down Ahmaud Arbery with his neighbors, the Georgia man used a racial slur to describe a Black man his daughter was dating, prosecutors said Monday.
That shocking detail was among several instances of Bryan’s racist behavior before Arbery’s Feb. 23, 2020, homicide in Satilla Shores, prosecutors said. Bryan and his neighbors, Travis and Gregory McMichael, have been sentenced to life after being convicted of Arbery’s murder, which has been described as a modern-day lynching under the guise of vigilante law enforcement.
Prosecutors are now arguing that the trio’s actions were motivated by racial animus at their federal hate-crimes trial. The men face several charges, including interfering with Arbery’s right to use a public street because of his race, and kidnapping. The McMichaels, who had initially agreed to plead guilty in a deal that was ultimately rejected by a judge, are also facing a count of using a firearm during the violent crime.
During opening arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bobbi Bernstein explained to jurors that the case “does not require proof of hate,” but rather that the three white men acted “because of race” and made assumptions about Arbery based “on the color of his skin.”
The Man Who Shot and Killed Ahmaud Arbery Is Going on Trial for Hate Crimes
Bernstein then began detailing past incidents of racist behavior. Travis McMichael, who fatally shot Arbery, allegedly previously used racial epithets about Black people, and once called them “animals, criminals, monkeys, sub-human savages.”
“Zero [n-words] work with me,” he wrote in a text message to a friend, prosecutors alleged on Monday. “They ruined everything. That’s why I love what I do now. Not an [n-word] in sight.”
Prosecutors say that his father, who was a former cop, allegedly made a negative comment after the 2015 death of Julian Bond, a civil rights activist and former Georgia state representative. “Bad?! I wish he’d been put in the ground years ago. He’s nothing but trouble. Those Blacks are nothing but trouble,” McMichael allegedly told a witness while he was still an investigator for a local DA’s office. The witness is set to testify during the trial.
But in what is perhaps the most disturbing example of racism from the trio, prosecutors allege that just days before Arbery’s murder, Bryan made several racist comments after learning his daughter was dating a Black man.
“[She] has her a [n-word] now,” Bryan allegedly said in a message. Bryan also repeatedly referred to the man by the racial slur and called him a “monkey,” Bernstein said.
On the day of Arbery’s death, Bernstein said that he told authorities he saw the 25-year-old “running and knew he had to be a criminal.” When asked what evidence he had to justify that Arbery could have been the individual that had been previously breaking into a home under construction in the neighborhood, Bryan responded: “instinct.”
“It’s not illegal to use racial slurs,” Bernstein told jurors. “But these slurs can provide you with evidence as to why a defendant did what he did.”
Defense attorneys for the trio, however, all insisted to jurors that their clients may have said concerning statements in the past—but it did not mean their actions during the February 2020 incident were motivated by racial hate. During the state trial, the defense teams all insisted the men were simply trying to execute a citizen’s arrest and acted in self-defense.
Pete Theodocion, Bryan’s lawyer, insisted to jurors on Monday that he did not take the case to “defend racism” but did acknowledge that his client used language that he is embarrassed about.
The defense lawyer insisted that Bryan does not see “the entire world through the prism of race” and would have acted the same way on the day of Arbery’s death if the man being pursued was “white, Hispanic or Asian.” “He never wanted any physical harm to Mr. Arbery,” Theodocion added.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism