By Devon M. Sayers and Pamela Kirkland, CNN
Updated: Sat, 13 Nov 2021 02:50:14 GMT
The prosecution in the trial of three White men charged in Ahmaud Arbery's killing played a series of 911 calls made by Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, including calls made weeks before the shooting.
In early January 2020, Travis McMichael called to report that a gun had been stolen from his truck. A little more than a month later, on February 11, 2020, he called again to report a suspicious individual inside a home under construction in the neighborhood.
"We've been having a lot of burglaries and break-ins around here lately, and I had a pistol stolen January 1 actually, and I've never seen this guy before in the neighborhood," Travis McMichael is heard saying on the call. He goes on to say that when he spotted the person, the individual "reached into his pocket," ran into the house and was "acting like he was" armed.
Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was shot and killed on February 23, 2020, near Brunswick, Georgia. Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and William "Roddie" Bryan Jr. are accused of chasing and killing him.
Defense attorneys contend their clients were trying to conduct a lawful citizen's arrest of Arbery, whom they suspected of burglary after they and several neighbors became concerned about people entering a home under construction. The defense contends Travis McMichael shot Arbery in self-defense as Arbery and Travis McMichael wrestled over Travis' shotgun.
The McMichaels and Bryan are charged with malice and felony murder in connection with the killing. They also face charges of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony. All have pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski played the 911 clips during testimony from Cara Richardson, director of the Glynn-Brunswick 911 call center. Richardson was the final witness called to the stand Wednesday.
Another call that was played was from Gregory McMichael on the day of Arbery's shooting. He is heard saying on the phone, "there's a Black male running down the street." When the dispatcher asks where, McMichael goes on to say, "I don't know ... Stop. Dammit. Stop. Travis!"
Kellie Parr, who grew up in the coastal Georgia neighborhood, testified earlier Wednesday that she had seen a "very tall" Black man standing in the doorway of the home under construction sometime in December 2019 or January 2020.
"There wasn't a door there and he was just standing in the door frame and we just kind of looked at each other as I drove by," Parr testified.
Arbery's mother called testimony 'disturbing'
The court also heard from Stephan Lowrey on Wednesday, who was an investigator with Glynn County police at the time of the shooting.
Lowrey testified that Bryan, one of the defendants, told him during an interview that he was on his porch on February 23, 2020, when he saw a "Black guy running down the road" and a truck "trailing or following" him. Bryan told Lowrey he yelled "You all got him?" to the truck and then got in his own truck to "assist," according to a transcript of the interview.
Bryan, who recorded cell phone video of the shooting, allegedly hit Arbery with his truck after he joined the McMichaels in chasing Arbery. The three men were allowed to leave the scene and weren't arrested until the video became public.
On Wednesday, Lowrey testified Bryan told him that once in his truck, he "angled" Arbery "off the side of the road," according to the transcript. Bryan told Lowery he had not seen Arbery prior to that incident, according to the transcript, and was not aware of him being involved in "any past instances."
In a news conference after trial proceedings ended for the day, Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery's mother, said it was Lowrey who called her on the day of the shooting.
"Investigator Lowrey was the individual that called me on that Sunday afternoon, about 6:30 p.m., and told me that Ahmaud had committed a burglary," Cooper-Jones said. "He told me that Ahmaud had did a burglary, he was confronted by the homeowner and Ahmaud was killed."
But she added that during testimony, she did not hear Lowrey say anything about her son committing a burglary.
"That was very disturbing," she added.
Witness testified Gregory McMichael didn't know if Arbery committed a crime
Roderic Nohilly, a police sergeant in Georgia's Glynn County, also testified Wednesday and said Gregory McMichael didn't know during police interviews whether Arbery committed a crime prior to their pursuit of him.
The prosecution has said Arbery was on the construction site that day, and that neighbor Matthew Albenze called police to report this -- but that neither of the McMichaels nor Bryan knew at the time whether Arbery had done anything wrong or had even been on the site that day.
Nohilly, a Glynn County police criminal investigator at the time, spoke with Gregory McMichael the evening after the shooting at police department headquarters. On Wednesday he read from a transcript of his recorded interview with the elder McMichael.
According to his transcript, Nohilly asked McMichael, "Did this guy break into a house today?"
"Well that's just it. I don't know," McMichael responded, according to the transcript.
"I told what's her name out there ... 'Listen, you might want to go knock on doors down there because this guy had just done something that he was fleeing from,'" McMichael says, referring to a female Glynn County police officer he spoke with about the shooting. "He might have gone in somebody else's house."
On Tuesday, Glynn County police Detective Parker Marcy testified that Gregory McMichael told him that although surveillance video had shown someone at the under-construction home multiple times before, McMichael didn't think the person had stolen anything from there.
On Wednesday, Nohilly testified that he further questioned McMichael about whether he'd seen Arbery before.
"No, I'd never laid eyes on on the guy," McMichael says in the transcript.
Under questioning from a defense attorney, Nohilly read a portion of the transcript in which McMichael said Arbery matched the description of the person in the previous surveillance video at the construction site.
Arbery had no weapon when he was killed, authorities said.
'He was trapped like a rat,' Gregory McMichael said, according to interview transcript
On Wednesday, Dunikoski, the prosecutor, directed Nohilly to read from the transcript about his questioning of McMichael, regarding the pursuit of Arbery and what McMichael speculated to be going through his mind.
"He was trapped like a rat," McMichael said, according to the transcript. "I think he was wanting to flee and he realized that something, you know, he was not going to get away."
Nohilly asked, "Yeah, but he (Arbery) could have run around your son, right?" Nohilly followed up by asking, "But I can tell in the video, I mean, the whole road is there," according to the transcript.
Prior to his interview with McMichael, Nohilly saw the cell phone video of the shooting, he said.
McMichael responded, "Oh, yeah, yeah. And he was much faster than Travis would ever be. He had the opportunity to flee further," according to the transcript.
McMichael went on to say, according to the transcript: "We had chased him around the neighborhood a bit, but he wasn't winded at all. I mean, this guy was ... in good shape."
Franklin Hogue, attorney for Gregory McMichael, asked Nohilly to recall a portion of the interview where McMichael indicated he believed Arbery was a threat.
Hogue read what McMichael said from Nohilly's transcript: "And there was no hesitation on his part when he came to Travis. I mean, it was, I think he was, his intention was to grab that gun and probably shoot Travis. That's in my mind. That's what I saw."
McMichael went on to say, "If he'd had gotten that shotgun, and there was no separation between Travis and him, I was going to cap his ass," according to the transcript.
Neighbor who called police testifies
Also testifying Wednesday was Albenze, the man who authorities say called police to say he saw a man -- later identified as Arbery -- at the under-construction home shortly before the shooting.
Prosecutors have said that after Arbery left that site and ran through the neighborhood, Gregory McMichael, who was in his own driveway, saw Arbery running, kicking off the chase.
On Wednesday, Albenze testified he was outside his own home, splitting wood, when he noticed Arbery "standing there, looking around" the yard of the construction site down the road.
Albenze said that Larry English, the owner of that property, had shown him surveillance video of a person on his boat dock in late 2019. He said the man in the yard made him think of the video English had shown him.
"Someone who looked like that had been on his dock at night," Albeneze told Dunikoski, the prosecutor.
Albenze said he went inside to retrieve his firearm and phone, walked back outside, and then called the nonemergency number for Glynn County police.
During that call, which was played for the jury, Albenze told police that the person at the construction site had been caught on camera there multiple times.
Albenze testified Wednesday that he wasn't certain at the time that the man was the same person as the one in previous video -- and probably meant to say that the man looked like the person in the video.
Albenze testified that, when Albenze had gone back outside, he could see Arbery inside the under-construction home -- but could not see what Arbery was doing.
Arbery left the area of English's house after Albenze made that call. Albenze testified he didn't know why Arbery took off, but he acknowledged telling others previously he suspected Arbery had seen him.
Albenze said he went inside his home without talking to anyone else -- and heard gunshots a few minutes later.
Albenze testified he was worried about burglaries in the neighborhood, citing concerns on a community Facebook group.
He expressed some regret for his actions that day, saying that he felt, in some way, he helped put a series of events into motion that resulted in Arbery's death.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the description of charges against the defendants.