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Travis McMichael fights through tears, recounts day Ahmaud Arbery died during trial

Travis McMichael recounts the day the 25-year-old was shot and killed.
Credit: AP
Travis McMichael reacts to question during his testimony in the trial of he and his father Greg McMichael and neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan in the Glynn County Courthouse, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, in Brunswick, Ga. The three are charged with the February 2020 slaying of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, Pool)

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — A video circulating on social media showed the final moments of Amhaud Arbery’s life. More than a year after his death, Travis McMichael, the man accused of firing the fatal shot that killed the 25-year-old, gave his account of what happened on Feb. 23, 2020 in court. 

“I want to give my side of the story,” Travis McMichael said Wednesday after his lawyer called him to the witness stand.

Travis McMichael was the first witness called on the ninth day of testimony of the murder trial. His father, Greg McMichael, and a neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, the man who recorded the video, are also facing charges in connection with Arbery’s death.

For Travis McMichael, he said that day started with his child.

“I was putting my son down for a nap,” Travis McMichael said.

He said he was caring for his son when his father called for him, saying he saw a suspected burglar running down the street.

Throughout the trial, defense lawyers said the events of Feb. 11, 2020 when the McMichaels investigated a suspicious person at a home under construction in the Satilla Shores neighborhood, add context to the McMichaels’ actions. The McMichaels said the suspicious person was a tall Black man. This was more than a week before Arbery was killed.

However, according to Travis McMichael, Arbery was that suspicious person. It's important to note there is no evidence Arbery ever took anything or committed any damage at the home.

Travis McMichael said his father told him to grab a gun before leaving the house. Travis McMichael grabbed his shotgun, left his home, and saw a neighbor pointing down the street adding that a person was running in that direction, he said. His father had already taken off.

Travis McMichael said he hops into his pick-up truck and eventually catches up with his father. In the commotion, he asked his father to call 911.

“I assumed he called the police,” Travis McMichael said. “Minutes later, I realized he didn’t.”

The next few actions happened in minutes, according to McMichael's testimony. 

He and his father caught up to Arbery in a pick-up truck and ask him what he's doing, according to testimony.

“I’m trying to keep this as non-volatile as possible,” he said about the encounter. However, Arbery doesn't answer or stop, according to Travis McMichael.

"He looks angry," Travis McMichael said about Arbery's demeanor. The man has clenched teeth, furrowed brows, it all seemed odd, he described for the jury.

"Something's not right," Travis McMichael said.

At this point, Travis McMichael said he still believed the police were going to arrive. He and his father continued to pursue Arbery. As they're driving parallel to the jogger, he said said Arbery grabbed the truck.

"My thought was, 'why is he attacking a truck?" McMichael said. "He seems dangerous to me, he's trying to get into this vehicle."

McMichael's testimony expressed that he felt threatened by Arbery, adding that Arbery ran toward him after he exited the truck.

"When he runs up the right side of the truck, what are you thinking?" Jason Sheffield, his lawyer asked him, referring to the video of Arbery's death.

"This is the point that's critical," he expressed to the jury, adding that he has his shotgun out at this point.

"He turns and he's on me," he said about Arbery. "He grabs the shotgun and I believe I was struck on that first instance that we made contact."

Travis McMichael said that's when he thought of his son, so he fired his gun.

"I shot him (Arbery)," Travis McMichael said tearing up. "He had my gun."

He held back tears as he continued his testimony.

"This is a life or death situation," he said on the stand.

"Did he stop when you shot him?" Sheffield asked about Arbery's actions.

"He did not," he said. "I know that I got hit."

McMichael said his past training from the Coast Guard kicked in and reacted accordingly. He felt that he was losing the fight and that Arbery was overpowering him. He didn't know how many times he shot his gun, only that he actually fired the first round. 

"He was not relenting," he said about Arbery's actions following the first gunshot. 

Travis McMichael said after another shot, Arbery disengaged.

"At that point, I was in shock," he said. "I turned around, we got over there, and pulled his (Arbery's) hand out from under him and realized he was deceased."

He walked over to the side and put his shotgun down.  Not long after, the police arrived and McMichael realized what he had done.