Brunswick, GA — All three white men in charge of the death of Ahmed Arbery were convicted of murder in a fatal shooting on Wednesday, becoming part of a larger national countdown on racial injustice.
The convictions for Greg McMichael, son Travis McMichael and neighbor William “Roddy” Bryan came after a 10-hour jury deliberation. The men face a minimum sentence of life in prison. It is up to the judge whether he comes up with the possibility of parole or not.
Travis McMichael stood up for the verdict, his lawyer’s hand on his shoulder. At one point, McMichael lowered his head to his chest. After the verdict was read, as he stood up to leave, he said “love you” to his mother, who was in the courtroom.
Moments after the verdict was announced, Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery Sr., was seen crying and embracing supporters outside the courtroom.
“He didn’t do anything,” said the father, “but run and dream.”
The McMichaels grabbed guns and jumped into a pickup truck as they chased a 25-year-old black man running through his neighborhood outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick in February 2020. Brian joins the chase in his own pickup and recorded cellphone video. Travis McMichael fatally shot Arbery.
Arbery’s murder after graphic video leaked online two months later. Although prosecutors did not argue that racism motivated the murder, federal officials charged him with hate crimes, alleging that they chased and killed Arbery because he was black. The matter is to be heard in February.
The jury sent a note to Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley shortly after returning to court Wednesday morning asking to see two versions of the shooting video — the original and one that investigators enlarged to reduce shadows — three times.
Jury members returned to the courtroom to watch the video and rehearse 911 calls from defendants made from the bed of a pickup truck about 30 seconds before the shooting.
The unequivocally white jury received the case around noon Tuesday and deliberated for nearly six hours before adjourning without a decision.
The McMichaels told police they suspected Arbery was a runaway thief when he armed himself and jumped into a pickup truck to chase him. Bryan joins the chase when they pass their home and watch a cellphone video of Travis McMichael destroying Arbery at close range with a shotgun as Arbery throws punches and holds for weapons.
Jury-reviewed on a 911 call, Greg McMichael tells an operator: “I’m here in Satilla Shores. There’s a black man running down the street.”
He then starts yelling, apparently when Arbery is running toward McMichael’s idle truck, with Brian’s truck following him: “Stop right there! Damn it, wait! Travis!” After a few seconds, gunshots can be heard.
Graphic video of the death leaked online two months later, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case, quickly arresting the three men. Each of them has been charged with murder and other offences.
Defense lawyers argue that the McMichaels were attempting the arrest of a legal citizen when they stopped after Arbery, seeking to detain and interrogate him as a suspected burglar, when He was seen running away from an under-construction house nearby.
Travis McMichael testified that he shot Arbery in self-defense, adding that the running man turned and attacked with his fist while Travis McMichael stood with his shotgun.
Prosecutors said there was no evidence that Arbery had committed crimes in the defendants’ neighborhoods. He had enrolled in a technical college and, like his uncles, was preparing to study to become an electrician.