Defendant: Ahmaud Arbery “trampled like a rat” before he was killed
BRUNSWICK, GA – One of the three white men on trial for the death of Ahmaud Arbery said the 25-year-old black man was “trapped like a rat” before he was shot dead, a police investigator said Wednesday.
Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael armed themselves and chased Arbery in a pickup truck after seeing him run around in their coastal Georgia neighborhood on February 23, 2020. William “Rudy” Bryan joined the chase in his own van and captured a mobile phone video of Travis McMichael shooting at Arbery thrice at close range with a shotgun.
More than two months passed before the three men were arrested for murder and other crimes, after the video was leaked online and the national account on racial injustice deepened.
Glenn County Police Sgt. Roderick Noelly told the jury Wednesday that he spoke with Greg McMichael at police headquarters a few hours after the shooting. He said Greg McMichael, 65, told him that Arbery “wasn’t out for a jog on Sunday. He was out there.”
Father told Nohilly that he recognized Arbery because he was caught on CCTV several times inside a neighboring house under construction. Greg McMichael said they went on a hunt to try to prevent Arbery from escaping the subdivision.
“He was trapped like a rat,” Greg McMichael said, according to a transcript from their Noaheli taped interview that she read in court. “I think he wanted to escape and realized that something, you know, wasn’t going to get away.”
Defense attorneys say the McMichael and Brian family were legally justified in stalking and trying to detain Arbery because they reasonably believed he was a thief. Greg McMichael told police Travis McMichael, 35, to shoot in self-defense as he attacked Arbery with his fists and tried to grab his son’s gun.
“He had a chance to get away more, you know,” Greg McMichael told Nohilly. “We chased him around the neighborhood a little bit, but he wasn’t upset at all. I mean this guy was in great shape.”
Prosecutors say the McMichaels and Brian family chased Arbery for five minutes before he was shot in the street after he passed McMichaels’ parked truck. Prosecutor Linda Donekowski described him as an “hungry runner” who lived 2 miles (3 km) from the Satilla Shores neighborhood where he was murdered.
Brian, 52, was on his front porch when he saw Arbery pass a McMichaels truck not far from the back. He told the police that he didn’t recognize any of them, or know what prompted the chase, but still joined after a plea: “Do you understand?”
Brian said he used his truck multiple times to cut Arbery off the road, Stefan Lowry, the Glenn County Police Detective in the case, said. He said police found Arbery’s prints near the truck driver’s door, next to a body dent. Brian said Arbery tried to open the door, but denied hitting the running man.
“I didn’t hit him,” Brian said, according to an interview transcript that Laurie read in court. “I wish I had. Maybe he took it out and he didn’t shoot it.”
Brian’s attorney, Kevin Gough, asked the detective if he believed Brian committed aggravated assault or any “serious violent felony” with his truck.
“No, that wasn’t how I interpreted it at the time,” said Lowry, who agreed that local police saw Brian as a witness to the shooting.
Glenn County Police made no arrests in the Arbery shooting. But Lowry said he did not close the case when the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over in May.
“It was still open but didn’t get a lot of momentum,” Lowry said. “I think the inactivity was a fair summary,” he added.
Reverend Al Sharpton spoke with reporters Wednesday outside Glynn County Courthouse, holding Arbery’s parents’ hands as he led a prayer for justice. Sharpton criticized the jury’s disproportionate white makeup.
Supreme Court Justice Timothy Walmsley allowed the jury to take the oath last week after prosecutors objected, saying that several potential black jurors had been disqualified because of their race, leaving only one black juror on the 12-person panel. Roughly 27% are black.
“It’s an insult to the intelligence of the American people,” Sharpton said. “If you can count to 12 and come up with only one that is Black, you know something is wrong.”
In court, another neighbor, Matthew Alpines, testified that he was splitting logs in his front yard on the day of the shooting when he saw Arbery enter the home under construction across the street.
Albenzi testified on Wednesday that he entered his home and put a gun in his pocket before calling the police from behind a tree at the sidewalk. Arbery left the house running toward the McMichaels’ house while Albenze was on the phone.
Alpines told the jury that he called the non-emergency police number. Dankowski asked him: Why not 911?
He replied, “I have not seen an emergency.”
At the witness stand on Wednesday, Noheli backed down when one of Greg McMichael’s attorneys asked if raising the gun would be an appropriate response to a fugitive suspect who refused verbal orders to stop.
“You’ll draw your weapon sometimes, right?” asked attorney Franklin Hogg.
“I don’t just pull my gun,” Noheli replied.
Hough then asked, “At some point, if someone were to attack you, you would go ahead and use your weapon.”
It depends on how he attacks me,” Noheli said.
Hough then asked him if the attacker was trying to take his gun away.
“At this point it might come to a minimum, yes,” said the police sergeant.