Ahmaud Arbery killing was based on assumptions, prosecution says
- Ahmaud Arbery was killed on February 23, 2020
- William "Roddie" Bryan, Greg McMichael, and his adult son, Travis McMichael are the defendants in the case
- Travis McMichael shot Arbery three time, according to a video
The Ahmaud Arbery trial started with the opening statements from the prosecution who told the jury on Friday that the killers of the 25-year-old Black man did everything on the assumption that he committed some crime.
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said that the short cellphone video that stirred national outrage over the slaying offered only a glimpse of the attack on Arbery, who gave his pursuers no reason to suspect him of any wrongdoing.
"They assumed that he must have committed some crime that day. He tried to run around their truck and get away from these strangers, total strangers, who had already told him that they would kill him. And then they killed him," Dunikoski was quoted to have said by the Associated Press.
Arbery was killed on February 23, 2020, and it was largely ignored until the video leaked and deepened a national reckoning over racial injustice.
According to a video recorded by William "Roddie" Bryan, Greg McMichael, and his adult son, Travis McMichael pursued Arbery in a pickup truck, with Bryan joining them, as he ran through their neighborhood just outside the port city of Brunswick in the state of Georgia. The video shows Travis McMichael shooting Arbery three times.
The chase started on a Sunday afternoon when a neighbor who's not charged in the case called a nonemergency police number after seeing Arbery wandering inside a home under construction, where security cameras had recorded him before.
Greg McMichael saw Arbery run past his home and ran inside to alert his son. They grabbed guns, jumped in their truck and gave chase, Dunikoski said. Bryan joined them after seeing Arbery run past the McMichaels' truck outside his home.
The prosecutor told the jury that Greg McMichael later told police that at one point during the chase he shouted at Arbery, "Stop or I'll blow your f—-ing head off!"
When a police officer who responded to the shooting asked Greg McMichael if Arbery had broken into a house, he told the officer: "That's just it. I don't know ... I don't know. He might have gone in somebody's house," according to Dunikoski.
"All three of these defendants did everything they did based on assumptions — not on facts, not on evidence," Dunikoski said. "And they made decisions in their driveways based on those assumptions that took a young man's life."
She said the grainy cellphone video shows Travis McMichael raise his shotgun beside the truck as Arbery approaches and tries to run around the opposite side. Travis McMichael is then seen stepping in front of the truck with the gun to confront the fleeing man, she said.
As Dunikoski played the video of Arbery's death for the jury, his mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, cried out in the courtroom and sobbed as her attorney tried to console her.
Defense attorneys planned to give their own opening statements later on Friday.
Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley swore in the disproportionately white jury on Friday before proceedings began. All three defendants are standing trial together, charged with murder and other felonies.
Arbery had been dead for more than two months before the three men were charged and jailed last year. Greg McMichael, a retired investigator for the local district attorney, told police the men were trying to stop Arbery because they suspected he was a burglar. Security cameras had recorded him entering a nearby house under construction.
Greg McMichael said his son killed Arbery in self-defense after Arbery attacked him with his fists and tried to take Travis McMichael's gun.
When Bryan's video of the killing leaked online in May 2020, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case from local police. GBI agents arrested the McMichaels the next day and charged Bryan two weeks later.
(With AP inputs)