By Dylan Housman
Three men involved in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year old black man shot in Brunswick, Georgia, in February 2020, were found guilty of murder by a jury Wednesday.
Gregory McMichael, his son Travis and their neighbor William Bryan face the possibility of a life sentence without parole for their parts in the murder. The defense for the younger McMichael had argued he fatally shot Arbery in self-defense, but prosecutors made the case that the defendants were not threatened by Arbery.
Video captured of the event by Bryan shows the three men chasing Arbery in two pickup trucks before cornering him in what the defendants said was an attempt to carry out a citizen’s arrest. Bryan and the McMichaels claimed there had been a string of robberies in the area prior, and that they suspected Arbery was trying to steal from a house under construction he had been walking inside of.
Prosecutors said Arbery was simply out for a jog and had entered unfinished homes in the area multiple times in the preceding months without taking anything. (RELATED: Man Charged With Fatally Shooting Ahmaud Arbery Reportedly Uttered Racial Epithet After Killing)
Prosecutor: Did Ahmaud Arbery reach into his pockets?
Travis McMichael: No.
Prosecutor: Did he yell?
Prosecutor: Threaten you?
Prosecutor: Brandish weapons?
Prosecutor: He just ran?
TM: Yes. pic.twitter.com/93Kb734XCJ
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) November 18, 2021
When Travis McMichael took the stand, he testified that Arbery never threatened, spoke to or brandished a weapon toward him before their altercation. When asked by the prosecutor if Arbery “just ran,” McMichael answered yes.
The men were also convicted of false imprisonment for trapping Arbery with their vehicles. After the trucks were stopped, Travis McMichael became engaged in a physical altercation with Arbery. Three shots were fired as McMichael and Arbery fought over McMichael’s shotgun. (RELATED: Prosecutors Allege Man Charged In Ahmaud Arbery Case Sent ‘Pages’ Of Racist Messages)
The role of race has been a key topic of conversation surrounding the case, as Arbery was black and his three killers were white. On a 9-1-1 call made by Gregory McMichael before the killing, he described a “black male running down the street.” About one week after the killing, Bryan told investigators that Travis McMichael had called Arbery a racial slur after shooting him, while his body lay on the ground. The three defendants are also facing federal hate crime charges.
The initial handling of the case by law enforcement also made headlines. Former Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson was indicted in September for alleged misconduct, after allegedly telling two police officers not to arrest Travis McMichael and obstructing another officer. The case was ultimately transferred to four different prosecutors’ offices, and the McMichaels were not arrested until May 7, 2020, more than two months after the killing. Bryan was arrested on May 21, 2020.