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The video of Ahmaud Arbery’s shooting death was shocking evidence that suddenly brought the murder of the black man into national consciousness.

But the murder convictions of the three white men who chased him may have been obtained just as much by their own words to investigators on the day of the shooting.

Greg McMichael, who was in the bed of a pickup truck when his son killed Arbery, told police the black man “was trapped like a rat” and he told Arbery, “Stop it, or I’ll kill you. jump your head! ”

Statements like this allowed prosecutors to give context to the short video which did not show the entire shooting and had little of the five minutes the men pursued Arbery.

“It was these statements that screwed up the defense more than the video. If they had never spoken to the police and said we had seen him take something on the property and run away – there is a blow, the jury might have acquitted them ” said appeals lawyer Andrew Fleischman, who followed the Atlanta trial.


The shooter, Travis McMichael, his father, Greg McMichael, and his neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan all spoke at length and candidly with Glynn County investigators just hours after Arbery was killed in their Brunswick, GA neighborhood. , in February 2020.

They told police they weren’t sure what Arbery had done wrong, which would later be a blow to their defense as they proceed with a citizen arrest.

The Citizen’s Arrest Act, largely repealed by lawmakers after Arbery’s death, required that a person see or have immediate knowledge of an ongoing crime or have reasonable suspicion that someone flees a crime in order to justify the arrest of a citizen.

“I don’t think the guy actually stole anything there, or if he did, that was early in the process. But he comes back to that damn house over and over again, ”said Greg McMichael, according to a transcript of the interview with Glynn County Police Sgt. Roderic Nohilly read in court.

Bryan was on his porch when he saw Arbery pass by with the McMichaels’ truck up close. He told the police that he didn’t recognize any of them, or that he didn’t know what had triggered the chase, but joined him anyway after shouting, “You all got it. ? “

In an interview with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Bryan said he wanted to take a photo of Arbery to show the police, but couldn’t point to any crimes Arbery had committed.

“I thought he did something wrong,” Bryan said. “I wasn’t sure.”

The statements allowed prosecutor Linda Dunikoski to methodically sort out the defense arguments.

“No one was talking about a citizen arrest. And I don’t mean using the magic words “citizen arrest”. I mean no one is saying, “We saw the guy commit a burglary and we were going to detain him so that we can turn him over to the police because he committed this crime,” Atlanta defense attorney said. , Pate Page.


This left the men’s lawyers having difficulty explaining their statements.

“The evidence suggests Roddie Bryan is legitimately struggling to find the right words,” Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, told jurors in closing argument Monday.

Travis McMichael, testifying in his own defense, said he was in shock when he first spoke to police, calling the shooting the most traumatic event of his life.

Greg McMichael’s attorney suggested that he may have never shouted at Arbery, ‘Stop it, or I’ll blow your head off’ as he told police because the remark failed. was recorded on cell phone video of the shooting or Greg McMichael’s 911 call to the police. These two recordings only covered a small portion of the five-minute chase that ended in Arbery’s death.

“You only have a handful of defenses to deal with what is essentially a confession,” Pate said.


Greg McMichael was a former investigator with the Glynn County District Attorney’s Office and perhaps felt he could overcome the issues among his acquaintances and friends.

It worked for a while. The men were not charged for more than two months, only after video of the shooting was broadcast and the case was forwarded to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. State agents charged the men two days later.

“This is just a case of a customer dissuading himself from getting into trouble and those statements later turned out to put him back in the game,” Fleischman said.

Phone records show Greg McMichael called his former boss, District Attorney Jackie Johnson, right after the shooting. Johnson turned the case over to an out-of-town prosecutor, who cited the Citizen’s Arrest Act as not recommending any charges. A third prosecutor was reviewing the case when the video surfaced and turned it over to the state.

Johnson was charged with the felony of violating her oath of office and one count of obstructing police for her role in the investigation. Authorities have released little information about Johnson’s actions other than saying she never revealed that she asked the second prosecutor to notify police immediately after Arbery’s murder.


Jeffrey Collins contributed to this report.


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