THE father-son duo charged with killing Ahmaud Arbery — and the man who police say filmed it — all pleaded not guilty in a Friday court appearance marked by an odd objection over coronavirus masks.
Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34, were indicted in June on murder charges in the killing of Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was fatally shot while jogging in Georgia in February.
The two appeared in court via videolink from prison, where they pleaded not guilty to all nine counts in their indictments.
William Bryan, the man who filmed Arbery's shooting, also pleaded not guilty.
His attorney said he won't force Bryan to wear a mask from prison while appearing in court.
He also objected to the mask S Lee Merritt — the attorney for Arbery's family — was wearing, which read: "George Floyd."
“In this courtroom, there should not be any political statements being made," he said.
But Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley objected, saying: I do not see masks as being a political statement. I wore a mask when I took the bench."
The McMichaels were arrested in May, months after the shooting, after an attorney and their friend, Alan Tucker, released the video — "to stop a riot."
Arbery was jogging in the Satilla Shores neighborhood earlier this year when he was shot down.
No arrests were made until May, after the video was widely shared on social media, pushing it into the national spotlight and prompting widespread outrage.
The men had told police they pursued Arbery after spotting him running in their neighborhood, according to the initial police report.
The indictments came after:
- Jogger Ahmaud Arbery was shot on February 23 by two white gunmen
- The McMichaels claim they thought Arbery was a burglary suspect
- Footage of Arbery's death is leaked on May 5, prompting mass outrage
- His family says the killing was a "hate crime" and demand justice
- Gregory and Travis are arrested on May 7
They said they thought Arbery matched the description of someone caught on a security camera committing recent break-ins in the area.
The McMichaels armed themselves with guns before getting in a truck to pursue him, the police report said.
Gregory said the jogger "violently" attacked his son, and the two fought over Travis' shotgun, with Travis shooting Arbery twice.
Police said that no reports of such break-ins were made in the neighborhood leading up to Arbery’s death.
The video shows a black man running at a jogging pace, with the McMichaels’ truck stopped in the road ahead of him.
One of the McMichaels is standing in the pickup’s bed and the other beside the open driver’s side door.
Arbery attempts to pass the pickup on the passenger side, moving just beyond the truck, briefly outside the camera’s view.
A gunshot can be heard and the video shows the runner grappling with a man over what appears to be a shotgun or rifle.
A second shot can be heard, and the runner can be seen punching the man. A third shot is fired at point-blank range, and Arbery staggers a few feet and falls face down.
Some of the encounter was apparently recorded in two 911 calls, with a dispatcher trying to understand the problem.
“There’s a black male running down the street,” a caller is heard saying.
The dispatcher responds: “I just need to know what he was doing wrong.”
In a second call six minutes later, someone can be heard yelling, “Stop. … Dammit. Stop.” Then, after a pause, “Travis!”
The McMichaels and Bryan were indicted in June by a grand jury.
Lawyers for the McMichaels have cautioned against a rush to judgment and have said the full story will come out in court, while a lawyer for Bryan has maintained that his client was merely a witness.
TMZ reported an investigator said Bryan told him he heard Travis call Arbery "f**king N-word" as he lay on the ground before police arrived.
Bryan told cops he heard the younger McMichael call Arbery the racial slur after he shot him.
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