BRUNSWICK, Ga. – The man seen on video fatally shooting Ahmaud Arbery acknowledged that Arbery did not threaten him during a chase and that he could’ve stopped following him before the defense rested its case on Thursday.
Travis McMichael also told prosecutors 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 of seven witnesses called by the defense and told the jury he wanted to share his “side of the story.”
The attorneys for McMichael’s co-defendants, his father, Gregory, and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, did not present cases before the defense rested. Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday morning.
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.
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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” 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.
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McMichael testified Wednesday that he told Arbery 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 that detail in his original police statement. He also said he never told police that he had intended to arrest Arbery or that he saw Arbery “attacking” Bryan’s truck.
Attorneys for McMichael and his father have argued that the two men chased Arbery in their pickup 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 Travis McMichael shot him in self-defense.
McMichael testified Thursday that 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.
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 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 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 testified Thursday. “The probable cause was him.”
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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” before Arbery’s shooting.
Meanwhile, outside the courthouse Thursday, a large group of Black pastors rallied to support Arbery’s family.
Kevin Gough, who represents Bryan, has taken issue with the presence of high-profile pastors in the courtroom, including the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.
Jackson clasped Marcus Arbery’s and Wanda Cooper Jones’ hands as prosecutors again played cellphone video of their son being shot.