BRUNSWICK, Ga (AP) – The three white men charged with the death of Ahmaud Arbery were convicted of murder on Wednesday in the fatal shooting that was part of a larger national calculation of racial injustice.
The convictions of Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and his neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan came after jurors deliberated for about 10 hours. The men face minimum life sentences. It is up to the judge to decide whether it comes with or without the possibility of parole.
Travis McMichael defended the verdict, his lawyer’s arm around his shoulder. At one point, McMichael lowered his head to his chest. After the verdicts were read, as he got up to leave, he said “I love you” to his mother, who was in the courtroom.
Moments after the verdicts were announced, Arbery’s father Marcus Arbery Sr. was seen crying and hugging supporters outside the courtroom.
“He did nothing,” said the father, “but run and dream.”
The McMichaels seized guns and jumped into a van to chase the 25-year-old black man after seeing him running around their neighborhood outside the port city of Brunswick, Georgia in February 2020. Bryan a joined the chase in his own van and recorded a cellphone video of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery, which was leaked online two months later.
Although prosecutors did not argue that racism motivated the murder, federal authorities charged them with hate crimes, alleging they hunted down and killed Arbery because he was black. This case is expected to be tried in February.
The jury sent a note to Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley shortly after returning to court on Wednesday morning, asking him to view two versions of the filming video – the original and the one investigators improved to reduce shadows – three times each.
Jurors returned to the courtroom to view the videos and replay the 911 call one of the accused made from the bed of a van about 30 seconds before the shooting.
The disproportionately white jury received the case around noon Tuesday and spent about six hours deliberating before adjourning without a verdict.
The McMichaels told police they suspected Arbery was a runaway burglar when they armed themselves and jumped into a van to chase him. Bryan joined the chase when they passed his house and recorded a cellphone video of Travis McMichael blowing up Arbery at close range with a shotgun as Arbery threw punches and grabbed the gun.
During the 911 call that the jury considered, Greg McMichael told an operator, “I’m here at Satilla Shores. There’s a black man running down the street.
He then begins to scream, apparently as Arbery runs towards McMichael’s idling truck with Bryan’s truck behind him, “Stop there!” Damn it, stop! Travis! Shots can be heard seconds later.
Graphic video of Arbery’s death leaked online two months later, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case, promptly arresting the three men. Each of them has been charged with murder and other crimes.
Defense attorneys argue the McMichaels were attempting to arrest a legal citizen when they left after Arbery, seeking to arrest and question him as a suspected burglar after being seen fleeing a house under construction nearby.
Travis McMichael testified that he shot Arbery in self-defense, claiming the running man turned and attacked with his fists as he drove past the idling truck where Travis McMichael was standing with his shotgun.
Prosecutors said there was no evidence Arbery committed any crimes in the accused’s neighborhood. He had enrolled in a technical high school and was preparing at the time to study to become an electrician like his uncles.