Just a day after the prosecution rested its murder case against him, Travis McMichael testified in his defense. McMichael is one of three defendants, along with his father Greg McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, charged with murder, aggravated assault, and false imprisonment in connection with Arbery’s death.
In a bold move, Travis McMichael, the 35-year-old man who shot and killed Ahmad Arbery, took the witness stand and testified in his defense on Wednesday afternoon. He described the encounter with Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, as a “life or death” situation. He claims he had no other choice and acted in self-defense.
This incident of “death struggle” that happened in the Satilla Shores neighborhood, Georgia, dates back to 23rd February 2020.
McMichael’s attorney, Jason Sheffield, asked him what was going on in his mind. To this Travis McMichael emotionally replied “My son”.
Travis McMichael was the first defense witness called to testify after the prosecution rested its murder trial on Tuesday.
Travis McMichael said, “I want to give my side of the story,” completely aware of the fact that he had no obligation to testify. He wanted to explain what happened from his perspective.
The Crimes in Satilla Shores
Upon answering the questions about the Satilla Shores neighborhood, where Travis lives, and also the incident that had happened, McMichael said that it’s a friendly and mostly peaceful neighborhood. However, thefts and other crimes were heard of every few months.
He mentioned his car was broken into several times and eventually he got tired of the burglaries and would just leave the car unlocked. By the beginning of 2019, it became quite common. Neighbors would compare stories of thefts and cars being broken into. He also mentioned a neighborhood watch Facebook page.
In a cross-examination, prosecutor Linda Dunikoski asked McMichael whether he had incomplete information about the person responsible for committing these crimes. McMichael replied with a yes, admitting it.
Experience in the Coast Guard Training
McMichael shared details of his extensive training in law enforcement. He was a member of the U.S. Coast Guard between 2007 and 2016. He is trained for the use of deadly force and de-escalation. One of the techniques he mentioned was using a firearm as a deterrent.
Along with his basic job as a mechanic, he took part in search operations, rescue missions, and immigration and drug enforcement operations.
Even as a civilian, he stopped two potential crimes on two different occasions, once scaring off robbers at an ATM and another by deterring a carjacker.
He said during his military training he learned to never let someone take your gun in a confrontation, as they could potentially harm you and others.
Feb 11, 2020- 12 Days Before the Fatal Encounter
McMichael testified that when he was getting gas, he saw a man sprinting across the road in front of his vehicle and starting “creeping through the Shadows”, outside an under-construction home.
Travis McMichael got out of his vehicle to ask him what was up with him or run him off. The man came out, pulled up his shirt to reach for his pocket, said, McMichael. He was “startled” and “freaked out”.
He went home and called 911, got armed, revisited the construction site with his father but the prowler had vanished from the scene.
Later, McMichael’s neighbors showed him security footage of a man suspiciously lurking in and around that same house under construction, just one street down his parent’s home. It appeared to be the same man, testified McMichael.
The Afternoon of 23 Feb 2020
Mcmichael Narrated the Whole Incident From His Point of View
McMichael was inside his parent’s home when Gregory McMichael, his father, came running in and informed him that the man Travis saw the other night at the unfinished house had just run past their own house. McMichael grabbed his shotgun, got into his white pickup truck with his father, and started to find the man.
That man turned out to be Arbery, the same man who was at the construction site 12 days ago Travis asked his father about the police and thought he heard that Gregory did call the police.
When Travis McMichael inquired from Arbery what’s going on, he did not reply and kept running. “He looked very angry. Mad. It wasn’t what I expected at all,” said McMichael.
When he caught up to Arbery again, Arbery stopped for a moment as if he was going to talk. However, when Travis McMichael told him that Police were on the way, Arbery took off again.
After following him around the neighborhood in his pickup truck, Travis saw Arbery running his way, followed by a black truck, driven by Bryan.
Travis then saw Arbery fighting with the truck, as if trying to get inside.
Travis got out of his vehicle and Arbery came within 10 feet of the rear of his truck. Travis McMichael shouted at him to stop, reaching into his truck to grab his shotgun. So Arbery turned and ran the opposite way.
Later, a physical struggle started between Travis and Arbery when Arbery came running into him. Travis McMichael said, “He was on me”, trying to get a hold of McMichael’s shotgun. Travis used his “push and pull technique” learned during Coast Guard training but was still losing.
He kept fighting with Arbery but was getting overpowered and to save himself from getting into “serious trouble” he pulled the trigger, shooting Arbery.
Arbery still didn’t give up fighting. Travis shot again and then a third time. At the third gunshot, Arbery let go of the gun and started to run, immediately collapsed, and died at the scene. Right then, the police arrived.
Travis McMichael explained his side of the incident and the prosecutor’s cross-examination is scheduled to continue on Thursday morning.