Ahmaud Arbery case: Suspect used racial slur after shooting, investigators say

GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. — Prosecutors told a Glynn County courthouse Thursday that one of the men accused of chasing and killing Ahmaud Arbery as he jogged through a Georgia neighborhood in February uttered a racial slur as the 25-year-old lay dying.

Officials with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation described a game of “cat and mouse” that Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan allegedly played with Arbery, with the men using trucks to stop him and box the unarmed man in as he tried to escape from them, according to WSB-TV and The Associated Press. Special prosecutor Jesse Evans said Arbery “was chased, hunted down and ultimately executed,” the AP reported.

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Authorities testified Thursday that at the scene of the shooting, Travis McMichael allegedly cursed and used a racial slur. A GBI agent also testified that there were “many” instances in which Travis McMichael used racial slurs online.

Officials with GBI on May 7 arrested the McMichaels on suspicion of murder and aggravated assault in Arbery’s death. On May 21, authorities arrested Bryan, 50, on charges of felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

Cellphone video of the incident, which happened while Arbery was out for a jog in the Satilla Shores neighborhood near Brunswick, Georgia, sparked outrage nationwide months after the killing.

Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34, admitted to grabbing guns and pursuing Arbery as he jogged through their neighborhood, WSB-TV reported, citing police records. The pair told authorities that they believed Arbery was a suspect connected to recent burglaries in the area and that they were trying to make a citizen’s arrest when Arbery was killed, according to WSB-TV.

Arbery's family has said he was merely out jogging. The former high school football player ran to stay in shape and lived less than 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) from the subdivision where he was killed. His mother said he planned to start technical college in the fall to become an electrician.

Defense attorneys for both McMichaels have said much remains unknown about what led to the shooting and have cautioned against rushing to judgment. An attorney for Bryan has said he was merely a witness to Arbery's death.

At the conclusion of the probable cause hearing Thursday, Magistrate Court Judge Wallace Harrell found that there is enough evidence for the cases against all three defendants to proceed.

The testimony presented Thursday raises questions about the idea that the McMichaels and Bryan were legitimately carrying out a citizens’ arrest of a suspected burglar. It also could factor into a federal investigation into whether hate crime charges are warranted.

The U.S. Department of Justice said on May 11 that it is reviewing the evidence to determine “whether federal hate crime charges are appropriate.” Georgia is one of the few states that don’t have a hate crime law.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.