As Ahmaud Arbery lie sprawled facedown on the pavement dying, Greg McMichael rolled the 25-year-old over and got blood on his hands, according to testimony Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Brunswick.
His son, Travis McMichael, had just shot the unarmed Arbery twice with buckshot at close range in the middle of Holmes Road in the Satilla Shores neighborhood on the afternoon of Feb. 23, 2020.
“He had his arm tucked underneath him and I didn’t know if he was going for a weapon or what because at that point, he was still breathing,” Greg McMichael told a Glynn County police officer on the scene that day.
Still later, with Arbery’s body within view, McMichael can be heard on a county police officer’s body camera cursing him.
“This ain’t no shuffler, this guy’s an a—–e,” McMichael tells a neighbor as county police officers nearby establish the crime scene.
During the first day of testimony in the federal hate crimes trial, a witness for the prosecution depicted the father and son as lacking in remorse over Arbery’s death and having a motive in pursuing him to a fatal confrontation. Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Richard Dial added that none of the three defendants, including William “Roddie” Bryan, made an attempt to assist Arbery as he lie dying.
“(Greg McMichael) did not attempt to render any aid,” Dial told Bobbi Bernstein, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. “(Travis McMichael) did not attempt to render any aid either. No, ma’am, (William “Roddie” Bryan) didn’t either.”
Already convicted of murder in state court, Travis McMichael, 66, Greg McMichael, 36, and Bryan, 52, stand accused in federal court of interfering with Arbery’s rights to use a public street because he was Black. The three, all of whom are White, also are charged with attempted kidnapping. Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael additionally are charged with firearms violence crimes.
Presiding U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood issued an order late Monday to sequester the jury to protect them “from trial publicity, extraneous influences and harassment.” The order came after a jury of three Blacks, one Hispanic and eight Whites were impaneled Monday to hear the trial. There are also four jury alternates, all of whom are White.
The jury and alternates heard opening statements Monday afternoon.
Several residents of Satilla Shores testified for the prosecution during Tuesday morning’s proceedings.
The testimony by Dial, the GBI’s lead investigator, took up much of the afternoon. Much of the evidence presented Monday concerned incidents that were covered heavily during the state murder trial, which ended Nov. 24 in guilty verdicts for all three men. They were subsequently sentenced Jan. 7 to life in prison.
The McMichaels armed themselves, got into a pickup truck and began chasing Arbery after Greg McMichael saw the young Black man run past their home. Bryan joined the chase in his own pickup truck after seeing Arbery run past his residence with the McMichaels in pursuit. Greg McMichael would later tell police to two pickup trucks had Arbery “trapped like a rat” on Holmes Road near Satilla Drive when his son shot him at close range with buckshot as the two men struggled for possession of Travis McMichael’s gun.
Bryan used his cellphone to record the deadly incident.
The GBI then took over an investigation that had stagnated for more than two months, arresting the McMichaels on May 7 and Bryan on May 20.
On the day of the shooting, Greg McMichael told police Arbery had “on numerous occasions broken into a home here,” according to recordings of his interviews with police that were played during Dial’s testimony. The residence in question was 220 Satilla Drive, a house under construction with no doors and open garage bays.
Bernstein asked Dial if Arbery actually broke into the house.
“He did not because it didn’t have any doors on it,” Dial said.
In fact, Arbery’s five visits to the unfinished home going back to Oct. 25, 2019, did not even rise to trespassing, because a person first has to be warned not to trespass. The house was not posted with No Trespassing or Keep Off warnings.
Arbery is seen on security video at the structure each of those times, wearing only shorts, a T-shirt and running shoes. He carried nothing in and took nothing out.
Bernstein asked if he ever took anything or disturbed anything inside the skeleton interior.
“No he did not,” Dial said. “He just walked around.”
Further, Dial said, the McMichaels were aware of this, having seen some of the home security videos that show Arbery causing no harm inside the home. Still, the McMichaels chased him when he ran past their home at 230 Satilla Drive on Feb. 23, 2020.
Travis McMichael later appeared to blame Arbery for the shooting, Dial testified.
“If he would have stopped, this wouldn’t have happened,” Travis McMichael told a police officer on the scene. He later told a police investigator: “I’m more pissed at the guy for putting me in this situation.”
Dial said Travis McMichael was aware that Arbery had no obligation to comply with his repeated demands to stop while on a public street.
Greg McMichael joked with detectives hours later during his interview at county police headquarters, appearing to chuckle on several occasions. A former county police officer in the 1990s, Greg McMichael went into a long story with a detective about finding his old department-issued .357 Magnum at a pawnshop. “What are the odds at that?” he says to the detective.
Dial described his mood during the police interview as “jovial.”
Upon seeing the McMichaels chasing Arbery past his residence, Bryan immediately asked the two White men, “Y’all got this?” Bryan used his truck on numerous occasions to block Arbery’s escape from the neighborhood, Dial said.
Bernstein asked whether Bryan ever offered Arbery help against the two men who were chasing him.
“No, ma’am, he did not,” Dial answered.
Among those testifying Tuesday morning was former Satilla Shores resident Daniel Allcott, who witnessed the immediate aftermath of the pursuit and killing of Arbery on the street right in front of his home.
Formerly a resident of Atlanta, Allcott moved to Brunswick in 2011 and took a job as a physical therapist on St. Simons Island. He and his wife moved into the neighborhood in 2013, finding it to be a quiet, friendly residential retreat from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Allcott and his wife were struggling to get their infant daughter to sleep when he heard three loud pops that afternoon. Travis McMichael shot three times, hitting Arbery twice and sending buckshot pellets from one shot through a neighbor’s front glass window at 232 Satilla Drive.
When his wife said it sounded like gunshots, Allcott was skeptical. They looked out the kitchen window and saw Travis McMichael and Gregory McMichael standing over Arbery’s body.
His wife said something along the lines of “Oh my goodness, there’s a kid laying in the street,” before Daniel Allcott moved them into a more secure part of the house and went to a side door to get a better look at the scene.
There he saw the McMichaels and Bryan standing over Arbery’s body, Allcott testified. A shotgun shell and spattering of blood had landed in his front yard, Allcott said.
By the time he’d settled down, Allcott said police were already on the scene.
A few days later, Arbery’s parents, Marcus Arbery and Wanda Cooper-Jones, showed up with a wooden cross. The Allcotts were more than willing to allow them to put up a small memorial in their yard, Allcott testified.
That event shattered his impression of the neighborhood and some of his neighbors, who made distasteful posts on social media about the fatal shooting, he said.
Allcott said he “never saw anything like” the slaying, he said.
“The house did not feel the same after that day,” Allcott testified. “It did not feel like home anymore.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism