If Travis McMichael had not shot Ahmaud Arbery in Feb. 2020, his father Gregory McMichael might have done so himself, according to new testimony in the trial for the three white men accused of murdering Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man.
Two Glenn County Police Department members testifying on Tuesday offered new insight specifically into the mindset of Gregory McMichael, the white ex-cop accused of sparking the deadly chase of the 25-year-old Black man, but not actually shooting at him.
It also appeared to punch holes in the arguments by defense attorneys that McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan were only attempting to make a “citizen’s arrest” of Arbery for a suspected burglary. After all, neither Gregory McMichael nor Travis McMichael used the word “burglary” in their initial interviews with police, according to testimony from numerous law-enforcement officers in the trial thus far.
Officer Jeff Brandenberry is a Glenn County Police Department officer who interviewed Gregory McMichael on the scene of Arbery’s killing on Feb. 23, 2020. On Tuesday, he testified that McMichael—a former investigator for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office—admitted that although his son Travis shot and killed Arbery after chasing him through the Satilla Shores neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020, he was ready to do the same thing.
“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 Brandenberry’s body-camera footage from the day that he read out in court.
McMichael also referred to Arbery as an “asshole” while speaking to Brandenberry at the scene of the shooting, about 30 feet from Arbery’s dead body lying in the middle of the road, according to the transcript as read in court. This despite the fact that he admitted he didn’t know Arbery and had never seen him before.
Glenn County Police Department investigator Parker Marcy testified that hours after the incident, when McMichael gave him a formal statement at the police department, McMichael admitted that during the heat of the chase through the Satilla Shores neighborhood, he stood on the back of his son’s truck with his pistol and threatened Arbery’s life.
“I said, ‘Stop, you know, I’ll blow your fucking head off or something,’” McMichael said, according to a transcript of the conversation between himself and Marcy. “I was trying to convey to this guy we were not playing.”
McMichael also admitted that he pointed his gun at Arbery at one point, according to Marcy.
When asked about what he planned to do to Arbery if he stopped running, Gregory McMichael told Marcy he planned to “hold him” and have the police “check him out,” the officer said. He did not, however, mention to either Marcy or Brandenberry any specific criminal offenses tied to a construction site nearby that he believed Arbery may have have committed.
And he did not use the word citizen’s arrest, both law-enforcement officers testified.
The alleged failure by McMichael to use the phrase citizen’s arrest or to cite burglary when speaking with initial law enforcement at the scene comes after the defense team argued that all three men were residents concerned about the safety of their neighborhood and attempting to stop and detain a “suspicious” Arbery so police could formally arrest him.
McMichael did express concern about theft in general when speaking to police, according to Marcy. The officer testified that, during his interview, McMichael told the investigator the “driving factor” for the chase was not now well-known visits Arbery made to the empty construction site nearby in previous months, but his son Travis’ missing pistol.
Travis McMichael’s pistol was taken from his truck parked outside the McMichael home the morning of New Year’s Day in 2020, according to a May 2020 police report.
Greg McMichael told Marcy that he believed Arbery was responsible for taking the gun, though even then, he admitted, “I don’t know for a fact.”
He also said he had “no reason to think [Arbery] did it” other than the fact that Arbery had been seen on surveillance video wandering around the empty construction site in his neighborhood on previous occasions.