(BRUNSWICK, Ga.) — A shotgun was lying on a lawn, a nearby window had a fresh bullet hole and two spent shotgun shells were seen on a driveway near where a mortally wounded Black man was face down on an asphalt road. Two visibly upset white men lurked near the body.
That was the scene described by the first police officers dispatched to the waterfront south Georgia community of Satilla Shores on what a crime scene investigator described as a clear, 68-degree Sunday afternoon in February 2020.
“This is the body of Ahmaud,” Sgt. Sheila Ramos, a crime scene investigator for the Glynn County Police Department, testified on Monday as she went through a series of photographs she took on the day prosecutors allege Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was chased down and fatally shot.
Arbery was unarmed and out for a Sunday jog when he was shot dead, according to prosecutors.
Ramos said no identification was found on the body that officers came upon in the unincorporated neighborhood near Brunswick, Georgia, on Feb. 23, 2020. She identified Arbery through his fingerprints.
Ramos said when she first arrived at the scene, she noted that a Remington 12-gauge shotgun she later learned was used to kill Arbery was lying on the grass in front of a home with a blood-spattered driveway covered in shell casings.
She testified that as she was marking the locations of potential evidence, she was notified that a bullet hole was discovered in the window of a nearby home and went to photograph it.
Ricky Minshew, now a former Glynn County police officer, testified that he was the first officer on scene.
Minshew testified that he was responding to a non-emergency call from a neighbor who reported seeing a “suspicious Black male” exiting a home under construction when he heard gunshots. He said that as he drove into the Satilla Shores neighborhood, he rounded a bend and saw Gregory McMichael, 65, and his son, Travis McMichael, 35, standing near the body of a Black man lying in the road.
Minshew, who had training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, said he did not immediately check the mortally wounded man to see if he still had a pulse and if he could be helped.
“Being that I was the only officer on scene, without having any other police units to watch my back, there was no way that I could switch to do anything medical and still be able to watch my surroundings,” Minshew testified, adding that while he was there he heard what he described as a “death rattle” or last breath coming from Arbery.
Minshew’s body camera footage was played for the jury and showed Gregory and Travis McMichael standing near Arbery’s body, with the elder McMichael apparently attempting to comfort his son.
“You had no choice,” Gregory McMichael is heard saying on the video, placing his hands on his son’s shoulders.
On Tuesday morning, Glynn County police officer Jeff Brandeberry testified that when he arrived at the scene he was tasked with interviewing Gregory McMichael, a retired Glynn County police officer.
Brandeberry testified that he observed blood on Gregory McMichael’s left hand and asked him about it.
Reading from his report, Brandeberry said Gregory McMichael told him the blood got on his hand when he checked Arbery for weapons after he was shot and lying in the street.
“I don’t know if he was going for a weapon or not because he was still breathing,” McMichael said, according to Brandeberry.
Brandeberry said Gregory McMichael explained that Arbery’s hand was stuck under his body so he pulled it free to see if he had a gun.
He said Gregory McMichael proceeded to tell him that a Black man previously had been recorded on security video entering a home under construction in the neighborhood. He said Gregory McMichael claimed he recognized the man from the video when he saw him “hauling ass” down the street past his home.
“So I haul ass into my bedroom to get my .357 Magnum,” McMichael said, according to Brandeberry’s testimony.
He said McMichael told him that he suspected the man was armed because about two weeks earlier his son had encountered the same man in the neighborhood, and his son said that the man had reached into his waistband as if reaching for a gun.
“I don’t take any chances,” Gregory McMichael is heard telling Brandeberry, according to a transcript of the officer’s body-camera video.
Under questioning from prosecutor Linda Dunikoski, Brandeberry testified that Gregory McMichael told him that the man his son shot was a “guy who we’ve seen on video numerous times breaking into these other houses.” He apparently was referring to a rash of burglaries that had been occurring in the neighborhood, Brandeberry said of Gregory McMichael.
But Brandeberry said that, at the time, McMichael told him he didn’t know where Arbery was running from when he ran home to fetch his gun and his son to chase after the Black man in his son’s pickup truck.
Asked by Dunikoski if at any time during the interview whether Gregory McMichael used the words “burglary,” “trespassing” or whether he and his son said they were trying make a citizens’ arrest, Brandeberry answered, “No.”
He said Gregory McMichael told him that during the chase, he was initially sitting on a child’s seat in the truck as his son drove. McMichael, he said, told him he later got in the bed of the truck so he wouldn’t have to “sit on a kid’s seat.”
Brandeberry said Gregory McMichael told him that he and his son got close enough to Arbery that he yelled at him several times, “Stop, stop, stop. I want to talk to you.”
He said McMichael told him that once they had Arbery trapped between his son’s truck and the pickup of their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, Arbery “attacked my son” after Travis McMichael got out of the truck with his pump-action shotgun.
“He came at him,” he said Gregory McMichael told him. “[Arbery] tried to get the damn shotgun away from him.”
Prosecutors have accused Travis McMichael of shooting Arbery three times, including a blast to the man’s chest. Photos taken of Travis McMichael at the crime scene showed his arms, back and face covered in blood.
Brandeberry said Gregory McMichael told him, “To be quite honest with you, if I could have got a shot at the guy, I would have shot him.”
The McMichaels and Bryan, 52, have all pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, aggravated assault and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
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