BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — The man who fatally shot Ahmaud Arbery testified Thursday that the 25-year-old Black man’s demeanor struck as him as suspicious when he pulled up beside him in his pickup truck to ask him what he was doing in a coastal Georgia neighborhood.
Travis McMichael said neighbors indicated that something had happened down the road and he wanted to ask Arbery about it, but when he told Arbery the police were on the way Arbery began to run.
Testifying under cross-examination, McMichael acknowledged that Arbery didn’t pull out a weapon or threaten him in anyway and indicated several times that he didn’t want to talk to him.
Asked how many times he had previously pulled up behind strangers in the neighborhood to ask them what they were doing there, McMichael said never.
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski pressed McMichael on why he didn’t include some details of his testimony Wednesday in his written statment to police, namely the part about his telling Arbery police were on the way.
Travis said he was “under stress, nervous, scared” at the time of his police interview and “probably being choppy.”
“What were you nervous about?” Dunikoski asked.
“I just killed a man,” McMichael responded. “I had blood on myself. It was the most traumatic event of my life.”
“You were nervous because you thought you were going to jail, right?” Dunikoski asked.
“No. I gave them a statement,” McMichael said.
It was McMichael’s second day of testimony, a day after he told the jury that Arbery forced him to make a split-second “life-or-death” decision by attacking him and grabbing his shotgun. McMichael’s testimony marked the first time any of the three white men charged with murder in Arbery’s death has spoken publicly about the killing.
Prosecutors contend there was no justification for McMichael and his father to arm themselves and chase Arbery when he ran past their Georgia home on Feb. 23, 2020.
Testimony resumed Thursday as the Rev. Al Sharpton planned to return for a rally with a large group of Black ministers, after a defense attorney intensified frustrations in the coastal Georgia community of Brunswick when he said he didn’t want “any more Black pastors” sitting in the Glynn County courtroom with Arbery’s family.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson once again joined Arbery’s family in the courtroom on Thursday.
Attorney Kevin Gough asked the judge last week to remove Sharpton from the court, saying the civil rights activist was trying to influence the jury, which is disproportionately white. The judge refused, and later called Gough’s remarks “reprehensible.”
The Feb. 23, 2020, shooting deepened a national outcry over racial injustice after cellphone video of Arbery’s death leaked online two months later.
McMichael and his father, Greg McMichael, armed themselves and pursued Arbery in a pickup truck after he ran past their home from a nearby house under construction. A neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, joined the chase in his own truck and recorded the video.
The McMichaels told police they suspected Arbery was a burglar because security cameras had recorded him several times in the unfinished house on their street.
Prosecutors say the men chased Arbery for five minutes and used their trucks to prevent him from fleeing their neighborhood before Travis McMichael shot him. They say there’s no evidence that Arbery — who had enrolled at a technical college to study to become an electrician like his uncles — had committed any crimes.