Ahmaud Arbery trial: Travis McMichael details ‘life-or-death situation’
Travis McMichael took the stand as the first defense witness to tell his “side of the story” in the fatal Georgia shooting, crying at one point.
STAFF VIDEO, USA TODAY
BRUNSWICK, Ga. — The man seen on video fatally shooting Ahmaud Arbery acknowledged Thursday that Arbery did not threaten him during the chase and that he could’ve stopped following him before the fatal shooting.
Travis McMichael also told prosecutors that he did not tell police some of the details about the pursuit that he shared in court on Wednesday.
McMichael took the stand early Thursday for cross-examination after testifying for about three hours Wednesday during which he broke down while describing the final moments of his confrontation with Arbery on Feb. 23, 2020. He was the first witness for the defense and told the jury he wanted to share his “side of the story.”
On Thursday, lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski pointed out several moments when McMichael could have stopped pursuing Arbery, and McMichael agreed but said he wanted to “watch” Arbery’s movements and find out what happened.
‘Chased down’ and killed: Trial over Arbery’s death reveals ‘painful’ similarity to case that launched BLM
McMichael told the jury there was a possibility Arbery was armed but agreed with Dunikoski that Arbery did not threaten him or brandish a weapon.
“I didn’t know if he was a threat or not,” McMichael said Thursday.
McMichael said he was later “under the impression” that Arbery could be a threat because he saw him “attacking” defendant William “Roddie” Bryan’s truck and Arbery ran toward him.
“All he’s done is run away from you,” Dunikoski said. “And you pulled out a shotgun and pointed it at him.”
Dunikoski also noted McMichael told investigators he could not remember if Arbery had grabbed his shotgun during the struggle.
“So you didn’t shoot him because he grabbed the barrel of your shotgun, you shot because he came around that corner and you were right there and you just pulled that trigger immediately?” Dunikoski asked.
“I was struck,” McMichael said. “We were face to face … and that’s when I shot.”
Prosecutors also pointed out several inconsistences in statements that McMichael initially gave police compared to what he told jurors the day before about the events leading up to the shooting.
Travis McMichael details his ‘side of the story’: Georgia man who fatally shot Ahmaud Arbery tells jury he was in a ‘life-or-death situation’
McMichael testified Wednesday that he told Arbery that police were on the way, which is what McMichael believes prompted Arbery to continue running from him. But Thursday, he acknowledged he did not include this detail in his original police statement. He also said he never told police he had intended to arrest Arbery or that he saw Arbery “attacking” defendant William “Roddie” Bryan’s truck.
Attorneys for McMichael and his dad, Gregory, have argued that the two men chased Arbery in their pickup truck because they wanted to detain him for police. They said they saw him running in their neighborhood and believed he was responsible for recent break-ins. Attorneys contend that Travis McMichael shot him in self-defense.
McMichael on Thursday said he “failed” to give fully accurate statements to police because the shooting was “the most traumatic event” of his life and at the time he was still covered in Arbery’s blood.
“Seeing how I was talking, I was under stress, nervous, scared,” he said as he looked at a transcript of his statements to police Thursday.
When asked if he thought he was going to jail during the interview because he had killed someone, McMichael said no.
McMichael repeatedly told jurors that he had probable cause to believe Arbery was a burglar because he saw him on neighbor Larry English’s property days before the shooting. English had previously alerted neighbors that people had been entering his home under construction. On Feb. 11, McMichael said Arbery appeared to reach into his pants, leading him to believe he was armed.
McMichael said he believed Arbery may have broken in the day of the shooting.
“That was the person I assumed that was committing the crime,” he said Thursday. “The probable cause was him.”
‘Hot spots of division’: Rittenhouse case, Arbery death trial reflect deepening political and racial divides
He agreed with Dunikoski that he didn’t know who had stolen items from English’s property.
“But I had a probability,” he said.
One witness, Brook Perez, also told jurors English had called her husband multiple times about people entering his unsecured construction site. Perez recalled she seeing Travis and Greg McMichael outside English’s home on Feb. 11 and seeing Travis covered in blood and pacing on the day of the shooting.
Jurors also heard from six Satilla Shores residents who testified about crime in the neighborhood and Facebook pages they used to share information about it, supporting the defense’s argument that the neighborhood was “on edge” prior to Arbery’s shooting.
Meanwhile outside the courthouse on Thursday, a large group of Black pastors rallied to support Arbery’s family.
Kevin Gough, who represents Bryan, has repeatedly taken issue with the presence of high profile pastors in the courtroom, including the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.
Jackson clasped both Marcus Arbery’s and Wanda Cooper Jones’ hands as prosecutors again played cellphone video of their son being fatally shot.