Ahmaud Arbery’s mother blasts investigator into son’s murder
Ahmaud Arbery (pictured) was chased and shot Feb. 23, 2020, after he was spotted running in the suburban neighborhood of Satilla Shores, located just outside the port city of Brunswick
Ahmaud Arbery’s devastated mother said the investigator who took the stand at her son’s trial Wednesday told the nearly all-white jury only half the story and called testimony of her boy being trapped like a rat ‘disturbing.’
Wanda Cooper-Jones blasted former Glynn County Police investigator Stephan Lowrie from the steps of Brunswick, Georgia, courthouse.
‘Investigator Lowrie was the individual who called me on that Sunday afternoon about 6.30pm and told me that Ahmaud had committed a burglary.
‘He told me that Ahmaud had committed a burglary, he was confronted by the homeowner and Ahmaud was killed. I listened to investigator Lowrie today for about three hours. He did not tell the court that Ahmaud had committed a burglary. In fact he said nothing about a burglary.
‘But instead he called me, and told me that my son (was) deceased because he had committed a burglary. That was not acceptable.’
The grieving mom went on to say: ‘Ahmaud ran, Ahmaud was chased, Ahmaud was killed and then Ahmaud was lied on.’
Arbery’s devastated mother Wanda Cooper-Jones (pictured) emerged from court later Wednesday after the trial convened for the day and branded the earlier testimony of her son being trapped like a rat as ‘disturbing’
Civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton (pictured Wednesday with attorney Ben Crump, Arbery’s parents and their lawyers) led a prayer vigil outside the courthouse demanding justice for the jogger in a killing he described as a ‘lynching in the 21st century’
Gregory McMichael – an ex-Glynn County cop and former investigator with the local district attorney’s office – 35-year-old Travis McMichael and William ‘Roddie’ Bryan, 52, all face nine charges from the killing on February 23 last year.
At Wednesday’s trial, the jury was played a call made by Bryan telling police he wished he had struck Arbery with his pickup truck because it ‘might have took him out and not get him shot.’
Bryan – who recorded the pursuit on his cell phone – said he angled his truck three times to cut off Arbery, alleging that the jogger had tried to open the door but denied striking the running man.
‘I probably got passed him a little bit and he comes up on me and I could see him in my mirror and he was coming for the door – and I see his hands on right behind the door,’ Bryan, 52, said, according to an interview transcript read by Lowrie – the former Glynn County Police investigator – in court.
He continued: ‘I didn’t hit him. Wish I would have. Might have took him out and not get him shot.’
The transcript was presented in court just hours after the jury learned that defendant Gregory McMichael told a cop that Arbery was ‘trapped like a rat’ as he and his son, Travis McMichael, chased after him.
‘He was trapped like a rat. I think he was wanting to flee and he realized that something, you know, he was not going to get away,’ said McMichael, 65.
Accused William ‘Roddie’ Bryan (pictured in court Tuesday) told police he wished he had struck Ahmaud Arbery with his pickup truck because it ‘might have took him out and not get him shot,’ his murder trial heard Wednesday
Bryan angled his truck three times to cut off Arbery, but denied striking the running man (Pictured: Image from Twitter video purporting to show Ahmaud Arbery stumbling and falling to the ground after being shot by Travis McMichael)
Earlier, the court heard a 911 call made by a breathless Travis McMichael on the evening of February 11, 2021 – 12 days before Arbery was killed.
McMichael was breathing heavily throughout the six-minute call after telling the operator he had ‘caught a guy running into a house being built’ who he believed could be armed.
He said he saw the man and ‘when I turned around he took off into the house’.
Panting heavily as he spoke, he continued: ‘Black male, red shirt. He is in the house.
‘I am sitting right across the street in my truck watching the house. He reached into his picket. I don’t know whether he is armed or not. It looked like he was acting like he was. Be mindful of that.’
Travis McMichael stayed outside the house until police arrived, according to the taped call. It was not disclosed in court what happened after that – and Arbery’s name was not mentioned in relation to the call in court.
Civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton – joined by attorney Ben Crump, Arbery’s parents and their lawyers – led a prayer vigil outside the courthouse Wednesday demanding justice for the jogger in a killing he described as a ‘lynching in the 21st century.’
He also criticized the jury seated for the racially-charged trial, echoing prosecutors’ claims that it was disproportionately white.
‘It’s an insult to the intelligence of the American people,’ Sharpton said. ‘If you can count to 12 and only get to one that’s black, you know something’s wrong.’
During Wednesday’s hearing, the jury heard Bryan describe the last few moments of ‘confronted’ Arbery’s life, as recorded in his interview with Lowrie.
Bryan ‘joined in’ the chase of the young black man after spotting him running while he was working on his porch at around 1pm, the court heard.
‘I was on the front porch of the house, looked up and see a black guy running down the road,’ he said.
Sharpton also criticized the jury seated for the racially-charged trial, echoing prosecutors’ claims that it was disproportionately white
The former investigator told the court that Bryan told him he saw a truck following Arbery. After that ‘he said Ya’ll got him?, like a question’, added Lowrie.
Asked by prosecutor Larissa Ollivierre if he said that to the ‘black guy’ or the truck, Lowrie said: ‘To the truck.’
Lowrie said Bryan then ‘went to his truck to assist… and kind of joined in’. The former cop added: ‘He sat there and kind of assessed and waited for Mr Arbery to come back towards him.’
Bryan angled his truck at Arbery three times during the pursuit, the court was told. But Arbery continued to run and gave Bryan the slip.
‘At this point I got turned round good,’ said Bryan in the interview with Lowrie, according to the transcript the former officer read in court. Bryan said he rounded a corner ‘enough to see the black guy was right there, but really wasn’t running any more.
‘It looked like at this point, I’d say he’d just had enough of the running. He was confronted.’
Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, asked Lowrie if he thought Bryan committed aggravated assault or any other ‘serious violent felony’ with his truck.
‘No, that wasn’t the way I interpreted it at the time,’ Lowrie explained, agreeing that at the time local police considered Bryan a witness to the shooting.
The defendants’ lawyers have said their clients were trying to make a lawful citizens arrest by chasing Arbery.
However, Lowrie told the court Bryan did not say anything in his interview about seeing Arbery committing a crime before he jumped in his truck.
Ms Ollivierre asked the former officer: ‘What if anything did Mr Bryan say about arresting or telling Ahmaud he was under arrest for criminal trespass?’
Lowrie replied: ‘He didn’t.’
The ex-cop also said Bryan did not mention anything in his interview about telling Arbery he was under arrest for loitering or burglary.
Ms Ollivierre asked Lowrie: ‘Did Mr Bryan ever tell Ahmaud during that chase that he was under arrest for anything?’ Lowrie replied: ‘No, not that I was made aware of.’
The court also heard Gregory McMichael’s recount of Arbery’s final moments, as described to Detective Sgt. Rod Nohilly during an interview conducted at police headquarters a few hours after the shooting.
The suspect told Nohilly: ‘[Arbery] wasn’t out for no Sunday jog. He was getting the hell out of there.’
McMichael explained how he and his son pursued Arbery, who they believed to be a burglar, and shouted for him to stop.
‘He was much faster than Travis would ever be. He had opportunity to flee further you know,’ he told trial witness Detective Nohilly.
‘He had an opportunity to flee further, you know. We had chased him around the neighborhood a bit, but he wasn’t winded at all. I mean this guy was, he was in good shape.’
The McMichaels began their pursuit of Arbery after he was spotted in a partially-constructed house on their street – which had been the subject of thefts allegedly involving a black man.
Arbery was inside the house for a short while before resuming his run on the street, in the direction of the McMichael home.
Gregory McMichael (left) allegedly told police that he, his son (right) and their neighbor had Ahmaud Arbery (pictured on the pavement) ‘trapped like a rat,’ noting that the jogger ‘knew he wasn’t going to get away’
Gregory McMichael told Nohilly during an interview shortly after Arbery was shot dead by Travis: ‘When he came past my house. He met the description of the video I had seen being in there (the house).
‘White t-shirt, short pants plus he was hauling a**. And you know this, he was running like people don’t run normally. He wasn’t out for a Sunday jog. He was getting the hell out of there.
‘And there was no hesitation on his part when he came to Travis. I mean, I think he was, his intention was to grab that gun and probably shoot Travis. In my mind, that’s what I saw.
‘And with that in mind, if he had gotten that shotgun, and there was any separation between Travis and him I was the one to cap his a**.’
The transcript of the interview was read aloud Wednesday at the racially-charged trial in Brunswick Superior Court.
Nohilly told the hearing that Gregory McMichael admitted he had never seen Arbery before, telling him: ‘No, no, I had never laid eyes on the guy… nobody in the neighborhood, nobody has a clue who he is.’
The detective also claimed McMichael said he ‘had never laid eyes’ on Arbery before he had ran past this driveway on February 23, 2020.
According to the transcript, the detective asked McMichael why he was chasing the victim: ‘Did this guy break into a house today?’
‘Well that’s just it, I don’t know,’ McMichael replied, according to the transcript.
Prior to that interview, McMichael had told officers on scene that he chased Arbery because he believed he was a criminal who had been recorded by security cameras breaking into houses in the Satilla Shores neighborhood.
Gregory McMichael (pictured in court Tuesday) also claimed Arbery could have out run Travis
Nohilly was also quizzed by Gregory McMichaels’ attorney Frank Hogue over when the detective himself might have pulled a gun in a similar situation.
Asked if that would be when someone didn’t stop, Nohilly replied: ‘No, I don’t just pull my gun.’
Hogue responded: ‘At some point if the person is going to attack you, you’ll go ahead and use your weapon.’
‘It depends on how he’s attacking me,’ Nohilly said.
‘If the circumstance includes being attacked by someone who seems to be trying to take your gun from you – putting his hands on it – you might use your gun, wouldn’t you?’ Hogue pressed.
‘At that point it might meet the threshold, yes,’ the police sergeant said.
Matt Albenze, a neighbor of the McMichaels, told the court Wednesday morning that he was outside his home chopping wood when he spotted Arbery in the partially-finished house.
The owner Larry English had previously shown him security video before of a black man on the property at night, but there was no confirmation this was Arbery.
‘I noticed Mr. Arbery standing in the front yard of that house, just looking around,’ he told the court.
‘What came to mind was Mr. English’s video. He then spotted Arbery through a window of the house.
Albenze said he grabbed a 9mm pistol and went into the street, then called the local non-emergency police line for assistance. On the call, Albenze explained he had seen a man on the construction site and added ‘he’s running around here’. The operator said she was sending assistance.
The neighbor then walked in the direction of McMichaels’ home a short distance away and told the court he said ‘there he goes’ while making a forward arm motion. But he added this was a general reaction, not a communication to the two accused.
Albenze said he then walked home. But added: ‘After a few minutes I heard gunshots. I got my bicycle and rode down to the corner. I saw a police car, I saw Mr. Arbery laying on the street, I saw Greg and Travis there. It was a kind of shocking scene.’
Travis McMichael (left), Gregory McMichael (center) and William Bryan Jr. (right) have all pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, aggravated assault and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski shows a video of Ahmaud Arbery walking through a house under construction during testimony on Tuesday
The court had already heard the McMichaels grabbed a .357 Magnum handgun and a shotgun before hopping in their pickup truck to chase Arbery, a budding rapper who lived with his mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, just outside Brunswick.
Unarmed neighbor William ‘Roddy’ Bryan, 52, joined the chase in his own truck – and would film the shocking cell phone footage of the deadly encounter only minutes away.
According to Gregory McMichael’s account in one police report, he and Travis shouted ‘stop, stop, we want to talk to you’ at Arbery.
In a transcript of an interview with Detective Parker Marcy read to the court Tuesday, McMichael stated: ‘I said, ‘Stop, you know, I’ll blow your f*****g head off or something.’
‘I was trying to convey to this guy we were not playing.’
The pair eventually pulled up alongside Arbery and Travis exited the truck with a shotgun.
In the police report, Gregory McMichael alleged ‘the unidentified male began to violently attack Travis and the two men then started fighting over the shotgun at which point Travis fired a shot and then a second later there was a second shot’.
Officer-worn body camera footage presented in court on Monday showed Gregory McMichael, 65, (left) consoling his son, Travis McMichael (right), after the 35-year-old shot Ahmaud Arbery
Officer-worn body camera footage presented in court Tuesday revealed that McMichael told officers on scene of the shooting he would’ve shot the jogger himself if his son had not done so.
‘To be perfectly honest with you, if I could have gotten a shot at the guy, I’d have shot him myself,’ McMichael said, according to a transcript of Officer Jeff Brandeberry’s body-camera footage that was read aloud in court.
McMichael added: ‘This ain’t no shuffler. This guy’s an a**hole.’
He also consoled his son, Travis McMichael, after the 35-year-old allegedly shot Arbery three times.
‘You had no choice,’ the elder McMichael said as he placed his hands on his son’s shoulders, as Arbery laid on ground, bleeding.
McMichael recalled the moment he first saw Arbery that fateful day.
According to the Officer Brandeberry transcript, he said: ‘The guy comes hauling a** down the street. I’m talking about dead run, he’s not jogging.
‘So I haul my a** into my bedroom to get a .357 Magnum. I don’t take any chances.’
Father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael armed themselves and used a pickup truck to pursue Arbery after they spotted him running in their neighborhood.
A neighbor, William ‘Roddie’ Bryan, 52, joined the chase and took cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery in the street at close range.
Prosecutors say the McMichaels and Bryan chased Arbery for five minutes before he was shot in the street after running past the McMichaels’ idling truck.
Police photographs presented in court Monday showed bloodstains on the asphalt where Ahmaud Arbery was shot
A police photograph presented in court Monday show Travis McMichael’s pump-action 12-gauge shotgun lying on grass near Arbery’s body
Bryan allegedly hit Arbery with his truck after joining the chase and before filming the horrifying cell phone footage. All three men were allowed to leave the scene and there were no arrests until the video became public two months later.
The senior McMichael told investigators he feared Arbery might be armed because there had been several thefts in the neighborhood, including a gun stolen from his son’s truck. He believed Arbery fitted the description of a man seen going into the partly constructed home on at least four occasions.
Defense lawyers claim the three defendants acted in self-defense after chasing and cornering Arbery. The men say they were trying to make a lawful citizen’s arrest until police arrived.
However, prosecutor Linda Dunikoski has argued the trio chased the former standout football player for four minutes through the area and threatened to shoot him.
The trio face four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
All three men have pleaded not guilty.