(BRUNSWICK, Ga.) — Travis McMichael returned to the witness stand on Thursday and under cross-examination from the prosecutor repeated that Ahmaud Arbery never verbally threatened him or brandished a weapon during the five minutes he, his father and their neighbor chased Arbery before McMichael fatally shot him.
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski attempted to undermind the 35-year-old McMichael’s credibility by getting him to concede to inconsistencies between what he told police the day of the shooting and what he told the Brunswick, Georgia, jury during his direct testimony on Wednesday.
“Not once in your statement to police did you say that you and your father were trying to arrest Mr. Arbery?” Dunikoski asked after inquiring about the defendant’s training on probable cause during his time in the Coast Guard.
Travis McMichael acknowledged that in none of his statements did he tell police that he and his father were attempting to make a citizens’ arrest of Arbery. He also conceded that he had suspected another individual of stealing a pistol from his truck on Jan. 1, 2020, and that he had also surmised that person, not Arbery, was the one responsible for a spike in crime in his Satilla Shores neighborhood near Brunswick.
Dunikoski grilled Travis McMichael on why he suspected Arbery of burglarizing a home under construction on the day of the killing, writing on a flipchart a series of assumptions and statements in which he said “maybe” a neighbor had seen him in the unfinished home, “maybe” he had broken in, “maybe” he was running from a crime, “maybe” Arbery had been caught in the act.
Travis McMichael testified that he based his suspicions on a totality of circumstances, including a brief encounter at the construction site in his neighborhood he had on Feb. 11, 2020, with a man that turned out to be Arbery, whom he thought was armed because he reached into his pants.
Travis McMichael, his 65-year-old father, Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, 53, have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, aggravated assault and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
Complaint about Rev. Jesse Jackson
During Travis McMichael’s testimony on Thursday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson sat in the courtroom gallery with Arbery’s parents, raising the latest of several recent objections from Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, that the presence of prominent Black ministers in the court was an attempt to intimidate the jury.
Judge Walmsley said he has already ruled twice on Gough’s motions to bar the Black ministers from the courtroom, finding that they have not been disruptive to the proceedings.
In an apparent reaction to Gough’s complaints, hundreds of Black ministers held a prayer vigil outside the courthouse on Thursday as the trial was going on.
Dunikoski directed Travis McMichael’s attention to the pursuit of Arbery that he and his father, Gregory McMichael, initiated after his dad saw Arbery running past their home on Feb. 23, 2020, causing them both to grab their guns.
During his direct testimony on Wednesday, Travis McMichael testified that he walked out of his house with his shotgun and saw a neighbor pointing in his direction as if signaling where he saw the young Black man running.
Travis McMichael testified on Thursday that at no time did he go and speak to the neighbor about what had occurred before he and his father jumped in his truck with their guns and set out after Arbery.
He testified that he drove close enough to Arbery on three separate occasions to ask him to stop running so he could speak to him, but in each instance, Arbery kept running, never said a word to him and altered his course in an apparent attempt to get away from the McMichaels.
“When you first see him, he’s not reaching into his pockets?” Dunikoski asked.
Travis McMichael answered, “No, ma’am.”
Dunikoski continued her line of questioning, saying, “And he never yelled at you guys, never threatened you at all?”
Travis McMichael responded, “Did not threaten me verbally.”
He agreed that Abery never brandished a knife, gun, or had anything in his hands at any time during the pursuit, testifying, “He was just running.”
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