ATLANTA, GA — Two of the three suspects in the Ahmaud Arbery murder case used racial epithets to describe African Americans and the accused shooter used a slur to describe the victim, testimony in court said Thursday. Arbery was chased and hit by a truck before the shooting, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent said at the preliminary hearing.
All three suspects in the shooting death of Arbery — Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan — were in court. A judge ordered all three men to stand trial in the slaying.
Arbery, 25, was jogging through his Satilla Shores neighborhood in Brunswick around 1 p.m. Feb. 23 when he was chased down and killed by two white men, his family said. Retired police detective Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34, were arrested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, two days after the agency took over the case from local authorities.
Bryan, the man who recorded the fatal shooting of Arbery, was arrested last month on charges that include felony murder.
On Thursday, GBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Richard Dial testified that Bryan told police Travis McMichael used the N-word after firing his shotgun at Arbery, CNN reported. A Confederate flag sticker was seen on the toolbox of McMichael’s truck, he said.
Dial said that McMichael used the racial slur many times on social media and in texts before the killing.
On Instagram, McMichael said things would be better if someone had “blown that N-word’s head off,” CNN reported, athough it wasn’t clear who he was referring to, the agent said.
Bryan’s phone had messages with “racial” terms, Dial said.
“He saw a man running down the road with a truck following him, and I believe he made certain assumptions that were, at least in part, based upon his racial bias,” the agent said.
In court, Dial said that the McMichaels and Bryan chased Arbery down, hitting him with a truck as he tried to flee.
“I believe Mr. Arbery was being pursued, and he ran till he couldn’t run anymore, and it was turn his back to a man with a shotgun or fight with his bare hands against the man with the shotgun. He chose to fight,” Dial said, according to the CNN story. “I believe Mr. Arbery’s decision was to just try to get away, and when he felt like he could not escape he chose to fight.”
During a news conference last week Gov. Brian Kemp said he would send the National Guard troops to help keep the peace, reports CNN.
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“We will have a strong state law enforcement presence in the region to support the local government, including the Georgia State Patrol, the Department of Natural Resources officers, Georgia Guard troops, GEMA officials and other related state agencies,” he said.
His message to anyone seeking to disrupt the proceedings:
“We will take the appropriate actions to hold bad actors accountable if they try to infiltrate what (have) been very peaceful gatherings in that community for well over a month now,” he said. “Let me be clear once again: We will not tolerate disruptive or dangerous behavior, including criminal conduct, and we will put the safety of our citizens first.”
Bryan’s lawyer, Kevin Gough, told “TODAY” last month that Bryan had fully cooperated with investigators and that he was just a witness to the fatal shooting. Bryan saw Arbery running from a pickup truck that was following him, Gough said. He followed them because he wanted a photo, he said.
In a viral video that’s shot from inside a vehicle, Arbery is seen jogging when he came upon a white truck. The younger man was standing beside an open driver’s-side door as the older man stood in the bed, armed with a pistol. In a confrontation with the younger man, three shotgun blasts were heard and Arbery stumbled to the pavement.
He was pronounced dead at the scene.