Who are Ahmaud Arbery suspects Travis and Gregory McMichael?
IT’S been over a year since Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was killed by three close-range shotgun blasts as he jogged through a Georgia neighborhood.
Travis and Gregory McMichael and their friend William “Roddie” Bryan were charged with federal hate crimes in the death of Arbery, and their trial comes to an end after 10 days in November 2021.
What happened in the defense attorney’s closing arguments?
An audible gasp was heard in the courtroom on Monday, November 22 during the closing arguments in the case against Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William Bryan. The three men are charged with the murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery.
The gasp came when Gregory McMichael’s defense attorney, Laura Hogue, made a comment that civil rights lawyer and former prosecutor, Charles Coleman Jr. called “utterly inflammatory.”
In her closing argument, Hogue told the jurors, “Turning Ahmaud Arbery into a victim after the choices that he made does not reflect the reality of what brought Ahmaud Arbery to Satilla Shores in his khaki shorts with no socks to cover his long, dirty toenails.”
Coleman told CNN that Hogue’s comments, “were an attempt to sort of really trigger some of the racial tropes and stereotypes that may be deeply embedded in the psyche of some of the jurors.”
He said her comments portrayed Arbery as a “runaway slave.”
Likewise, civil rights attorney L. Chris Stewart said, “It was disrespectful, it was horrific, and attorney Hogue should be ashamed of herself, to bring up his feet in the middle of trial. What is wrong with you?”
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski presented her closing arguments on Tuesday, November 23. She emphasized to the jury the absence of a cause for Arbery’s death and said the men told police Arbery had not committed a crime that they knew of.
The jury is now deliberating.
Who are the Ahmaud Arbery suspects?
Arbery’s case, along with the recent high-profile killings of George Floyd and other Black men and women, have helped fuel months of nationwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality in the US.
Court began on November 5, 2021, for the hearing of Gregory McMichael, 65, his son Travis McMichael, 35, and William “Roddie” Bryan, 52.
Gregory McMichael, 65, is a white retired law enforcement officer.
Employment records show he failed to complete sufficient basic law enforcement training, the Guardian reported.
This led to him losing his power of arrest in 2006, it adds, for failing to complete the required 20 hours of training the previous year.
McMichael was an investigator in the Brunswick judicial circuit district attorney’s office from 1995 to 2019.
News4Jax adds that: “For eight years, Gregory McMichael was acting as an investigator with no arrest powers due to lack of training.”
The website explains: “The lapse in state-mandated training for community-oriented policing, de-escalation, and use-of-force meant, between 2006 and 2014, McMichael didn’t have the authority or right to apply for arrest warrants, search warrants or conduct arrests under the color of the law.”
In 2014, according to a personnel memo cited by News4Jax, “McMichael had his department-issued firearm taken away, his badge and any other card identifying him as a deputy sheriff or District Attorney’s Office investigator”.
It added: “He was told he couldn’t serve subpoenas or work in the field until the issues were resolved.”
McMichael applied for a training waiver, telling the Georgia POST Council that he had suffered two heart attacks between 2005 and 2009.
Also, his wife had been diagnosed with cancer and the couple had filed for bankruptcy due to “overwhelming” medical bills, News4Jax reports.
In 2014 his boss spoke to the council on McMichael’s behalf, and his training waiver was granted.
That meant he was able to continue on as chief investigator for District Attorney Jackie Johnson’s office.
Five years later, in February 2019, months before he retired, McMichael again lost his certification from the council for failing to complete the required training in 2018, says the Guardian.
Stripped of his law enforcement duties, he was reassigned to work as a staff liaison in the Camden county district attorney’s office – but was not allowed to have his badge or carry a firearm.
McMichael retired in June 2019.
Dwayne Pollock, assistant Human Resources director for Glynn County, told Insider that the office “located no record of discipline or complaints” associated with McMichael’s career.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that McMichael had helped with a “previous prosecution of Ahmaud Arbery”.
When he was in high school, Arbery was sentenced to five years probation on a weapons charge, the paper added.
Travis McMichael, 35, is Gregory’s son.
In November 2020, at the Superior Court, Travis’s mother, Lee McMichael, testified that he lived with her and his father.
She also told the court that he has a son – then aged four – and doesn’t have a passport, reported the Associated Press.
His attorneys cited his past service as a US Coast Guard mechanic as proof of his character.
Zachary Langford – a friend of Travis McMichael’s since boyhood – testified that his friend was a jokester who got along with everyone.
William ‘Roddie’ Bryan
William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, hails from just outside the port city of Brunswick.
The Georgia man’s cell phone recorded the fatal shooting of Arbery, the unarmed Georgia jogger.
Attorney Kevin Gough, who is representing Bryan, released a public statement in 2020 saying that, “Roddie is a family man, Nascar fan, and enjoys rock and roll”.
The McMichaels weren’t arrested until the cellphone footage of the shooting leaked online, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case.
In June 2020, a grand jury indicted both McMichaels and their neighbor, Bryan, on charges.
Gough, Bryan’s lawyer, told USA Today that Bryan and his family – his two children and fiancee – have received “harassing and threatening communications” in the wake of Arbery’s death.
The lawyer also said that Bryan had been fired from his job as a mechanic.
Gough added in 2020: “His family members have been harassed. They’re genuinely fearful.
“Here’s someone who videoed what happened. And for two months, he’s a witness.
“Overnight, he’s suddenly the target of the investigation. That’s a pretty big change of events.”
He described Bryan as a “quiet man”.
When cops responded to the shooting, Bryan led them to his car to watch his recorded footage, Gough said.
The attorney added that if his client hadn’t filmed it, “the only version of what took place would have been coming from the two people with the guns”.
What allegedly happened to Ahmaud Arbery?
The fatal shooting took place on February 23, 2020, outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick.
Investigators allege that Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William Bryan used their trucks to chase down 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, who repeatedly reversed directions and ran into a ditch while trying to escape.
Travis got out of his truck and confronted Arbery, later telling police he shot him in self-defense after Arbery refused his order to get on the ground, according to authorities.
It is believed the first shot was to Arbery’s chest, the second was to his hand, and the third was to his chest again before he collapsed.
Arbery “was chased, hunted down, and ultimately executed,” according to special prosecutor Jesse Evans.
Ahmaud Arbery was fatally shot in February of 2020/Reuters[/caption]
Special agent Richard Dial testified during a hearing that Travis told police he raised his shotgun at Arbery from 90 feet away and told him to get on the ground.
More on Ahmaud Arbery shooting
Arbery ran around the passenger side of Travis’ truck, and the two men met in front of the truck.
Dial said Travis told police Arbery “squared up” like he was going to attack.
Dial said: “There’s a statement that he might have had his hand on his shirt.
“Travis McMichael said his adrenaline was pumping and it all happened very quickly.”
Travis then fired the first shot into Arbery’s chest, according to Dial.
The agent was asked to consider whether Travis had fired in self-defense.
“I don’t think it was self-defense by Mr McMichael,” said Dial.
“I believe it was self-defense by Mr Arbery. … I believe Mr Arbery’s decision was to try to get away and he found he could not escape.”
Have the Ahmaud Arbery suspects been charged?
On Wednesday, November 17, 2021, Travis McMichael was called as the first witness to testify for the defense.
Throughout his testimony, McMichael insisted he was acting in self-defense as there had been a string of burglaries in the neighborhood.
When asked about seeing Arbery, McMichael said:
“Seeing a video of him walking around so nonchalant in that house, kind of, it startled me a little bit.
“Just catching him creeping through that front yard and obviously trying to avoid detection and then doing what he did there and going into the house and walking around in there like it’s no big deal, that was alarming.”
Arbery was seen entering the home in a surveillance video at the site, but the owner of the home said he did not see any crime be committed.
Additional surveillance footage showed multiple people had trespassed at the home under construction.
If convicted of their crimes, all three men face up to life sentences in prison.
On April 28, 2021, the Justice Department brought federal hate crimes charges in the death of Ahmaud Arbery.
Travis and his father, Gregory, were charged along with Bryan, with one count of interference with civil rights and attempted kidnapping.
The McMichaels are also charged with using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence.
The indictment charges that the McMichaels allegedly armed themselves with firearms, got into a truck, and chased Arbery through the public streets of the neighborhood while yelling at Arbery, using their truck to cut off his route and threatening him with firearms.
It also alleges that Bryan got into a truck and then chased Arbery, using the vehicle to block his path.
The three men remain jailed on state murder charges.
The McMichaels’ lawyers have said they pursued Arbery, suspecting he was a burglar after security cameras had previously recorded him entering a home under construction.
They say Travis shot Arbery while fearing for his life as they grappled over a shotgun.
Local prosecutors have said Arbery stole nothing and was merely out jogging when the McMichaels and Bryan chased him.
The Justice Department alleges that the men used force and threats of force to intimidate and interfere with Arbery’s right to use a public street because of his race.
In pretrial court hearings in Georgia, prosecutors have presented evidence that racism may have played a role in the man’s death.
During a bond hearing in November, prosecutors introduced evidence that Travis had allegedly used racist slurs in a text message and on social media.
Attorneys for Travis said they were disappointed that the Justice Department “bought the false narrative that the media and state prosecutors have promulgated”.
“There is absolutely nothing in the indictment that identifies how this is a federal hate crime and it ignores without apology that Georgia law allows a citizen to detain a person who was committing burglaries until police arrive”, attorneys Bob Rubin and Jason Sheffield said.
Gregory McMichael’s attorneys, Frank and Laura Hogue, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, said he was disappointed by federal prosecutors’ decision to seek an indictment against Bryan.
“Roddie Bryan has committed no crime”, Gough said in a statement.
“We look forward to a fair and speedy trial, and to the day when Mr. Bryan is released and reunited with his family,” he added.
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