(TMU) – After Ahmaud Arbery was shot in the chest, the man who shot him cursed him using a racial slur, according to the lead investigator of the unarmed 25-year-old Black jogger’s murder.
Special prosecutor and lead Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Richard Dial testified Thurssday that Arbery was boxed in by two pickup trucks belonging to Travis McMichael, 34, and his father, Greg McMichael, 64, before Travis jumped out of the car and shot Arbery in the chest with a pump-action shotgun, the first of three shots that left Arbery staggering and ultimately dying in the middle of the road.
Dial said that the driver of the second pickup truck, William “Roddie” Bryan, 50, then heard Travis McMichael use a racist slur as he stood over Arbery’s lifeless body: “F*cking n*gger.”
The evidence was presented to support murder charges against the McMichaels as well as against Bryan himself, who filmed the murder as it occurred, AP reports.
The allegation also challenges any claim of self-defense made by the gunman and his father, instead depicting a cold-blooded killing with potentially racist motivations – real factors in determining whether a federal investigation into a possible hate crime is warranted.
Travis McMichael, one of the men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery, stood over his lifeless body and called him a "f*****g n*gger". pic.twitter.com/9CcnwqU267
— Balvin | Stop Being Performative (@LordBalvin) June 4, 2020
Arbery was killed on February 23, but the McMichaels were arrested and charged with murder over two months after he was killed, days after Bryan’s video leaked online and after the state took over the case following a series of recusals by local prosecutors.
It took another two weeks before Bryan met the same fate and was taken into custody. He now faces felony murder charges along with using his vehicle in a criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment by confining and detaining Arbery.
CNN reports that when asked if he believed Travis McMichael acted in self-defense, Dial said that the opposite was true. He said:
“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. … 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.”
Special prosecutor Jesse Evans said Thursday that Arbery “was chased, hunted down and ultimately executed.”
Moving forward, Glynn County Magistrate Judge Wallace E. Harrell must now determine if authorities have enough evidence of murder to bring the case to trial.
Another piece of evidence that could support the prosecutions case is the fact that body camera footage showed a Confederate battle flag sticker affixed to the toolbox on McMichael’s truck.
The flag represents the former Confederate States of America, which waged a civil war against the United States from 1861 to 1867 to preserve the violent institutions of chattel slavery that prevailed in the U.S. South. The symbol remains controversial and is considered to be a symbol of racism and white supremacy.
The narrative surrounding the shooting – that the McMichaels racially profiled Arbery as a burgler before getting their guns, forming a posse with Bryan, trapping him and shooting him in the middle of the road in broad daylight – has churned up anger and recalls tales of racist mob justice and lynchings in the Jim Crow South.
In Thursday’s hearing, agent Dial outlined the events that preceded the apparent murder of Arbery, explaining how prior to the shooting the three men engaged in an elaborate chase before eventually slamming a truck into the 25-year-old jogger as he attempted to escape them.
UPDATE: An investigator has testified that one of the white men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery was heard saying a racist slur over his body. Evidence also alleges that Arbery was unable to escape after being repeatedly boxed in by two pickup trucks https://t.co/ttUGRAO1Fg pic.twitter.com/6rKI6JGbqq
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) June 4, 2020
A palm print has been found on the rear door of the McMichaels’ truck as well as cotton fibers above a dent, which investigators “attribute to contact with Mr Arbery.”
While Bryan’s defense has argued that he was only a witness to the killing, agent Dial told the court that he yelled out “Do you got him” after he saw neighbors chase Arbery, before he eventually joined in the pursuit.
Bryan “made several statements about trying to block [Arbery] in and using his vehicle to try to stop him,” Dial explained. “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.”
Neither the McMichaels nor Bryan have entered formal pleas, but their attorneys have previously commented that they are innocent and the state should not rush to judgment.
The killing of Arbery by apparent vigilantes has outraged Americans – and particularly African Americans – across the United States since the shocking video footage emerged.
Comparisons have been made between Arbery’s killing and the 2012 vigilante-style killing of unarmed Black teen pedestrian Trayvon Martin by then-neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Sanford. Zimmerman was later acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges after claiming self-defense.