None of the three white men charged in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery had cause to make a citizen’s arrest when they saw him in their neighborhood, according to a prosecutor, who said Monday in closing arguments that the defendants decided to pursue him “because he was a Black man running down their street.”
Closing arguments before a disproportionately white jury began after 10 days of testimony that concluded last week, not long after the man who shot Arbery testified he pulled the trigger in self-defense.
Arbery’s killing became part of a larger, national reckoning on racial injustice after a graphic video of his death leaked online two months later. Though prosecutors didn’t argue that racism motivated the killing, federal authorities have charged all three men with hate crimes, alleging that they chased and killed Arbery because he was Black.
Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael grabbed guns and pursued Arbery, 25, in a pickup truck after spotting him running in their neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020. A neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, joined the chase and recorded the video of Travis McMichael opening fire as Arbery threw punches and grabbed for his shotgun.
No one was charged in the killing until Bryan’s video leaked online and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case from local police. All three men face counts of murder and other charges.
“All three of these defendants made assumptions, made assumptions about what was going on that day and they made the decision to attack Ahmaud Arbery in their driveways because he was a Black man running down their street,” prosecutor Linda Dunikoski told jurors Monday. “They shot and killed him. Not because he was a threat to them. But because he wouldn’t stop and talk to them.”
Defense attorneys say the men suspected Arbery had burglarized a house under construction and intended to hold him until police arrived. Prosecutors say there’s no evidence Arbery committed any crimes in the neighborhood. They say the men chased Arbery for five minutes and used their trucks to prevent him from fleeing before McMichael shot him.
Arbery had enrolled at a technical college and was preparing to study to become an electrician like his uncles when he was killed. The McMichaels told police they suspected Arbery was a burglar because security cameras had recorded him several times in the unfinished house on their street.