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Defendant who shot Ahmaud Arbery takes stand as defense begins arguments

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Posted at 11:25 AM, Nov 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-17 18:05:41-05

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — The defendant who fired the shotgun that killed Ahmaud Arbery has taken the stand in his murder trial, saying he wants to give his side of the story.

Travis McMichael told Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley on Wednesday that he understands he's not compelled to testify but said, “I want to explain what happened.”

He testified that he feared Arbery was armed with a gun when he encountered the 25-year-old man “creeping” outside an unfinished house in his Georgia neighborhood 12 days before the shooting. At that time, he said he pointed his headlights on Arbery, who he claims tried to hide behind a portable toilet at the construction site.

“He comes out and pulls up his shirt, and goes to reach in his pocket or waistband area,” said McMichael.

McMichael said he got “freaked out” and he then went home and called 911.

Later, McMichael testified about the moment he shot Arbery on Feb. 23, and he appeared to get emotional on the stand.

“He grabs the shotgun and believe I was struck on that first instance that we made contact,” said McMichael.

“What were you thinking at that moment?” asked McMichael’s attorney, Bob Rubin.

“I was thinking of my son. It sounds weird, but that was the first thing that hit me,” McMichael responded.

“What did you do?” asked Rubin.

“I shot him,” said McMichael.

“Why?” asked Rubin.

“He had my gun. He struck me. It was obvious that he was, it was obvious that he was attacking me, that if he would have gotten the shotgun from me, then it was a life-or-death situation. And I’m going to have to stop him from doing this, so I shot,” said McMichael.

McMichael’s testimony came as defense attorneys opened their case by building on arguments that their clients were lawfully trying to stop burglaries in their neighborhood. Arbery was Black. The three defendants are white.

Also on Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley again denied motions both for a mistrial and to keep prominent civil rights figures from the courtroom after the Rev. Jesse Jackson joined Arbery's parents in the room for the second time this week.

Prosecutors rested Tuesday after eight days of testimony regarding the 25-year-old Black man's shotgun slaying last year.

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski announced the end of their arguments Tuesday afternoon after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's lead investigator and medical examiner testified.

Dr. Edmund Donoghue told jurors the shotgun blasts that hit Arbery punched a gaping hole in his chest and unleashed massive bleeding.

Jurors also saw autopsy photos that showed Arbery’s white T-shirt stained entirely red.

Donoghue said Arbery was hit by two of the three shotgun blasts fired at him.

GBI Agent Richard Dial walked the jury through maps of the neighborhood and a drone video tracing Arbery's route during the 5-minute chase.