Ahmaud Arbery: Defense rests for 3 charged in death of jogger

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Travis McMichael testified in his own defense Wednesday as he, his father and his neighbor face criminal charges in the February 2020 shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery.

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Arbery, 25, died on Feb. 23, 2020, after McMichael shot him as Arbery was jogging through the Satilla Shores neighborhood near Brunswick. Travis McMichael, his father, Greg McMichael and his neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, all face murder charges in the deadly shooting.

Update 4:33 p.m. EST Nov. 18: The defense for all three defendants in the trial for the killing of Ahmaud Arbery rested their case Thursday afternoon.

The defense team representing Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. rested after presenting their case for two days and calling seven witnesses. Travis McMichael testified during the trial; the other two defendants did not.

Closing arguments will begin at 9 a.m. EST on Monday.

Update 11:45 a.m. EST Nov. 18: Travis McMichael testified that he never told Arbery that he was “under arrest” because he didn’t have time in the heat of the moment.

“I was still trying to get him to stop,” he said on the stand Wednesday.

Defense attorneys have argued that Travis McMichael was trying to hold Arbery under a citizen’s arrest on suspicion of him burglarizing a house under construction in the neighborhood when the shooting occurred.

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said that in the hours after Arbery’s death, Travis McMichael never told police that he and his father were trying to make an arrest.

The younger McMichael ended his testimony on the stand on Thursday morning.

Update 10:44 a.m. EST Nov. 18: During his second day of testimony on Thursday, Travis McMichael said under cross-examination that he gave police a choppy, incomplete statement because he was under intense stress after killing a man.

“You were nervous because you thought you were going to jail, right?” prosecutor Linda Dunikoski asked him.

“No,” he replied.

He acknowledged that Arbery never made any threats against him but said that he believed the 25-year-old might be armed based on an encounter they had days earlier, when Travis McMichael spotted Arbery outside a home under construction in the neighborhood. He testified that at the time, he saw Arbery reach for his waistband, indicating to him that Arbery might be armed.

Update 9:35 a.m. EST Nov. 18: Travis McMichael was back on the stand on Thursday morning for cross-examination by the prosecutor.

An attorney for William “Roddie” Bryan said his client does not plan to testify, according to WJAX-TV.

Update 5:31 p.m. EST Nov. 17: The trial adjourned for the day and will resume at 9 a.m. EST on Thursday.

Before Wednesday’s session ended, Linda Dunikoski, a senior assistant district attorney in the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office, began cross-examining Travis McMichael. She will resume cross-examination on Thursday.

Original report: “I want to give my side of the story,” McMichael said at the start of his testimony.

He said that he and his father began to follow Arbery after his father spotted the 25-year-old and told McMichael that “the guy that’s been breaking in down the road just ran by the house,” he testified. He said that he recognized Arbery from a Feb. 11, 2020, encounter outside a nearby home under construction where he had heard there had been a theft.

McMichael said he wanted to talk to Arbery and that he repeatedly tried to tell Arbery to stop running.

McMichael became emotional on the stand while recounting the final moments before he opened fire on Arbery. He said that during a scuffle, Arbery grabbed his gun.

>> Related: Suspects charged with murder of Ahmaud Arbery plead not guilty

“I was thinking of my son. It sounds weird but ... it was the first thing that hit me,” McMichael said. “He had my gun. He struck me. It was obvious that he was ... attacking me, that if he would’ve gotten the shotgun from me -- it was a life or death situation.”

After calling 21 witnesses over the course of eight days of testimony, the state rested its case Tuesday against Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan, who all face murder charges in the killing, WSB-TV reported.

>> Related: Father, son accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery denied bond

Authorities said the McMichaels armed themselves and chased Arbery in a pickup truck. Bryan, a neighbor of the McMichaels, trailed them in his vehicle and recorded video as Travis McMichael fired his shotgun at the 25-year-old, killing him, according to WJAX-TV and NPR.

Defense attorneys said the McMichaels and Bryan believed Arbery was a burglar and were trying to hold him for arrest, WSB reported. They argued that Travis McMichael fired his gun in self-defense after Arbery tried to take it from him, according to The Associated Press.

Prosecutors said the McMichaels chased Arbery for five minutes based on assumptions about why the young Black man was running in the neighborhood, NPR reported. They argued that at no time did the McMichaels say they were conducting a citizen’s arrest and that the father and son were in fact unaware of any crime having occurred before the shooting.

>> Related: Former district attorney indicted over handling of Ahmaud Arbery case

The McMichaels and Bryan chased Arbery after seeing him run from a nearby home under construction where security cameras has recorded him several times, according to the AP. In a deposition played last week in court, the home’s owner, Larry English, said nothing was ever taken from the house and he didn’t put up signs warning against trespassing or staying off the property, according to WSB.

Authorities brought charges against the McMichaels and Bryan months after the shooting amid public outcry after graphic footage of the deadly shooting appeared online. In September, a grand jury indicted former Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson on charges related to the handling of the case.