Travis McMichael Allegedly Called Ahmaud Arbery a ‘Fucking N-----’ After Shooting Him

William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., who participated in chasing Arbery and filmed the encounter, overheard Travis, according to a state investigator.
June 4, 2020, 3:13pm
​Cover: This Thursday, May 7, 2020, photo provided by the Glynn County Detention Center, in Georgia, shows Travis McMichael. (Glynn County Detention Center via AP)​

Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.

UPDATED June 4, 5:41 p.m.

Moments after shooting Ahmaud Arbery, Travis McMichael was overheard calling the young black man a “fucking n-----” as he lay dying on the pavement, according to testimony Thursday from the state law enforcement agent overseeing the case.

Richard Dial, a special agent for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and lead investigator in Arbery’s case, said during a probable cause hearing Thursday that William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., who participated in the three-man chase that led to Arbery’s February death, overheard Travis call the 25-year-old black man the slur. The comment came as the men were awaiting police, according to Dial.

That hearing concluded late Thursday, with Glynn County Judge Wallace E. Harrell ruling that there was enough evidence against all three men who chased Arbery to proceed to trial.

Dial testified earlier Thursday that Travis, who was once in the Coast Guard, had used the same slur “many times.” He once responded to an Instagram video sent to him by saying, “It’d only be better if they’d blown that f-ing n-word’s head off,” according to Dial. (It’s unclear what that video depicted; Dial said a warrant is out for Travis’ Instagram content.) Travis also expressed he loved his job giving custom boat tours because there “weren’t any n-words,” according to Dial.

Arbery was jogging around the suburban Georgia neighborhood of Satilla Shores on Feb. 23 when Greg McMichael, Travis’ father, determined he was a burglary suspect. He and Travis had apparently seen surveillance video of Arbery entering a home that was under construction nearby, although the owner of that home said nothing was ever stolen.

Greg, 64, told police that he didn’t know whether Arbery had stolen anything but had a “gut feeling” that he was a suspect, according to Dial. Upon seeing Arbery “hauling ass” down their road one February afternoon, Greg called out to Travis, 34, to help follow Arbery.

The two men armed themselves with guns and began to chase Arbery in their truck, according to a police report from that day. Bryan, who lived nearby, didn’t really know the situation at hand when he saw the McMichaels pursuing Arbery, but he followed behind in his truck and filmed the incident on his cell phone.

The McMichaels said they were commanding Arbery to “stop” throughout, but they did not call 911 before they started pursuing him, Dial said Thursday.

Both Bryan and the McMichaels tried to block Arbery with their vehicles several times and reroute his path toward them so they could “detain” him, Dial said, as Arbery tried to run away.

Travis eventually jumped out of the vehicle and a struggle with Arbery ensued. He shot Arbery three times with his shotgun in broad daylight — twice in the chest, once in the wrist. Greg McMichael told officers he was telling Travis not to shoot, according to Dial.

Bryan’s video captured Arbery’s final moments, and only a brief version of it has been seen online. The video shows Arbery and Travis fighting for control of the gun, as shots ring out. Arbery strikes Travis before eventually falling to the ground, his shirt saturated with blood.

Arbery was an avid runner, according to family members. The owner of the home that was under-construction even suggested he may have come onto the property to get water during his exercise routine. But suspicious residents often discussed the home and those who entered it on a private Facebook page, Dial said Thursday.

McMichael was a retired police officer and investigator for the county’s district attorney. In fact, he was carrying a police-issued revolver during the encounter with Arbery. Local police on at least one occasion had told the homeowner to rely on McMichael for help if any trespassers came onto the vacant property.

On May 7, the McMichaels were arrested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and charged with murder and aggravated assault after months of pleading from Arbery’s family, and the case changing prosecutors over apparent conflicts of interest due to Greg McMichael’s long law enforcement career.

Bryan, 50, was later arrested on May 21 and charged with felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

Defense attorneys for the McMichaels and Bryan — they’re all represented by different teams — largely described the men as simply acting on a string of local crimes that had left their community on edge. They all sought to dismiss charges against their clients

An attorney for Greg McMichael, Frank Hogue, said that while chasing Arbery with a gun “may not have been a very good idea,” the elder McMichael was otherwise trying to intercept a person who he wanted to “stop, and question, or have police question” based on “visual evidence” that Arbery had entered the vacant home. An attorney for the homeowner has said he didn’t believe the incidents surrounding his property warranted a “vigilante response.”

Jason Sheffield, Travis’ attorney, argued that Travis wanted to talk to Arbery first due to a “history of issues in the neighborhood,” and then was forced to defend himself when Arbery ran “at him in an aggressive way.” Sheffield had also earlier attempted to bring up Arbery’s mental health history. Attorneys for Arbery’s family said that line of questioning was inappropriate, and caused Arbery’s mother to leave the courtroom.

Kevin Gough, Bryan’s attorney, said that Bryan didn’t really know the situation at hand when he saw the McMichaels pursuing Arbery, but did “what any patriotic American citizen would’ve done under the same circumstances.” He’s repeatedly said Bryan was a witness to the crime, not a criminal himself.

Dial had earlier testified that Bryan had a history of racist comments, including some with phrases that were unfamiliar to Dial. He did not specify what the comments included.

A trial date has not yet been set.

Cover: This Thursday, May 7, 2020, photo provided by the Glynn County Detention Center, in Georgia, shows Travis McMichael. (Glynn County Detention Center via AP)