The man who fatally shot Ahmaud Arbery had previously used racial slurs in text messages and on social media, a prosecutor said Thursday as a judge was debating whether to give bail to the defendant and his father.
Travis McMichael and his father Gregory McMichael have been imprisoned since their arrest in May, more than two months after Arbery’s death.
The McMichaels, who are white, chased the 25-year-old black man and fatally shot him after seeing him in their neighborhood just outside the port city of Brunswick.
Questions about whether racism played a role in the killing were exacerbated during an earlier hearing when an investigator testified that a third defendant, who had taped a cell phone video of the shooting, told authorities he heard that Travis McMichael, 34 ) Racist allegations after the Arbery explosion three times with a shotgun.
In Thursday’s courtroom, Zachary Langford – a childhood friend of Travis McMichael’s – testified that his friend was a prankster who got along with everyone and had at least one black boyfriend.
Prosecutor Jesse Evans then asked Langford about a text message Travis McMichael sent him last year that used a black bow when he referred to a “crackhead … with golden teeth.”
Langford initially said he did not remember receiving the message. After looking through a transcript of the exchange, he replied, “It was referring to a raccoon, I think.”
Evans also cited a photo Langford posted on Facebook last year, to which Travis McMichael replied, “Sayonara,” along with an offensive label for Asians, followed by a statement. Langford said he didn’t remember either.
A cross with flowers and the letter “A” is located at the entrance to the Satilla Shores neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia, where Ahmaud Arbery was shot, on May 2020 [Sean Rayford/Getty Images/AFP]The defense attorneys of both McMichaels have denied any racial motives in the shooting. Immediately after the February 23 shooting, Gregory McMichael told police that he and his son had armed themselves and got into a pickup truck to pursue Arbery because they suspected he was a burglar.
Prosecutors said Arbery was only jogging when the McMichaels were chasing him. Her defense lawyers insisted in court Thursday that this is not true.
“We have substantial evidence that Mr. Arbery was not a jogger on the day in question,” said Robert Rubin, one of Travis McMichael’s attorneys. “He was there for nefarious purposes.”
Rubin did not provide evidence in court that Arbery did anything wrong the day he was shot.
Langford’s wife, Ashley Langford, testified that Travis McMichael expressed regret over shooting Arbery.
“He told me he wished it had never happened that way,” she said. “He prayed daily for Ahmaud’s mother and his family.”
Supreme Court Justice Timothy Walmsley made no decision on the loan for either of the McMichaels. He was still hearing testimony on Thursday afternoon.
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, told the Glynn County court that the McMichaels should remain in jail pending trial because “these guys are dangerous.” She also said she doubted they had any regrets.
“I live right there in the community,” said Cooper-Jones. “Nobody bothered to say, ‘I’m sorry for your loss. ‘I don’t think they’re remorseful at all. “
The McMichaels weren’t arrested until the cell phone video of the shooting leaked online and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case. In June, a grand jury indicted McMichaels and a neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan.
Each of them is charged with malicious murder, criminal murder, aggravated assault, wrongful imprisonment and the criminal attempt to commit wrongful imprisonment.
Travis McMichael’s mother, Lee McMichael, testified that he lived with her and his father, had a four-year-old son, and did not have a passport. His attorneys cited his previous service as a US Coast Guard mechanic as evidence of his character.
“In no way is Travis form or form hateful of any group of people, nor does he look down on anyone based on race, religion, or belief,” said Curt Hall, a former Coast Guard roommate of Travis McMichael who considered himself “Multiracial”, he wrote in a letter in which he supported the bond for his friend.
Gregory McMichael, 64, is a retired Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney investigator and a former Glynn County Police Officer.
McMichaels’ attorneys are also calling on the judge to dismiss the prosecution’s malicious murder charge. It was written so that “two crimes are wrongly charged in one count”. They made a similar argument in favor of dismissing charges of criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
William R Bryan poses for a booking photo after he was arrested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and charged with murderous crime and attempting to serve a false prison term on Arbery’s death [Glynn County Sheriff”s Office/Handout via Reuters]Bryan was previously denied the loan. His attorney has argued in court motions that the entire charge should be dismissed.