GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. – For seven minutes on a clear day in February, Ahmaud Arbery was running not for leisure or exercise, but for his life, an investigator with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation testified Thursday.
The 25-year-old is first seen on surveillance video wandering into an open construction site in the Glynn County neighborhood Satilla Shores on the day of the deadly shooting.
Not long after Arbery enters the construction site, a neighbor is seen on camera standing on the front lawn of the house right across the street. Records show the neighbor called 911 complaining that a guy was in the unfinished home.
Video shows Arbery run out of the house and past the neighbor as he’s on the phone with the dispatcher.
“There he goes right now,” the neighbor told the dispatcher.
The lead investigator for the Ahmaud Arbery GBI investigation testified during the preliminary hearing Thursday. GBI Special Agent Richard Dial said according to Gregory McMichael – he saw Arbery run past his home.
Dial said according to testimony from Greg McMichael he didn’t know if Arbery had stolen anything, but his “instinct” or “gut feeling” told him Arbery was responsible for the thefts in the neighborhood.
Police reports state McMichael went back into his home to tell his son Travis who he saw running past their house. Greg McMichael then grabbed his Glynn County department-issued pistol, Travis grabbed a pump-action shotgun and they left their driveway in Travis’s truck in the direction Arbery was running.
“They caught up with Ahmaud Arbery as he was running,” Dial said.
According to investigators, the road Arbery is running on turns into Burford Road as he continues to run straight, which is the street the third suspect William “Roddie” Bryan lives on.
“When this is going on Mr. Bryan is outside his residence and he has a surveillance video that captures this going down his driveway, so you see Travis McMichael’s truck and Ahmaud Arbery in his driveway and according to Mr. Bryan’s statement as well, he sees them trying to pursue Ahmaud Arbery,” Dial said.
Dial said Bryan gave a statement that he didn’t recognize Greg McMichael as he was in the passenger seat of the truck and had never met Travis McMichael, but he recognized the truck they were driving.
“He yells ‘Do you got him?'” said Dial. “He doesn’t get a response. Mr. Bryan’s statement is that he goes into his residence, gets the keys to his truck, comes out, cranks up his truck with the intention of assisting in the pursuit.”
Greg McMichael who up until this point was sitting on a child’s car seat gets out of the truck to confront Arbery, according to special agent Dial.
“According to Greg McMichael and Travis McMichael’s statement, Greg McMichael comes back to the truck and tells him to go back. You know ‘back up, back up.’ Trying to encourage Travis McMichael to back the vehicle up and engage Mr. Arbery,” said Dial.
The lead investigator testified Arbery was running away from the McMichaels and in the direction of the exit of Satilla Shores when Bryan pulls out from his driveway and attempts to block Arbery, but Arbery runs around the truck.
According to special agent Dial, Greg McMichael hops into the bed of the truck and Travis McMichael drive in the opposite direction of Arbery.
“His intention is to get and cut off Mr. Arbery where Holmes road becomes Satilla Dr. and cut him off in that way,” Dial testified.
Investigators say Bryan gave a statement that he attempted to block Arbery several more times with his truck. Investigators say they also found cotton fibers above a dent in the bed of Bryans truck suggesting Bryan truck hit Arbery at some point.
“At this point, Mr. Arbery is going back the way he's come which would lead him out of the Satilla Shores neighborhood. Mr. Bryan made statements that he continues to try to block in Mr. Arbery. Mr. Arbery takes a right turn onto Holmes Road,” said Dial.
Bryan follows Arbery down Holmes Road and at the same time Travis McMichael and his father turn onto the road from the other end.
“You got one vehicle coming one way down Holmes Road and another vehicle coming another way. Mr. Arbery is between them. So, at some point Mr. Arbery turns around and starts heading back towards Bryan,” said Dial.
Dial says according to a statement from Byran, he saw Arbery pass his vehicle and then the McMichaels pass his vehicle. At some point, Dial says the McMichaels get in front of Ahmaud Arbery and Bryan turns his truck around too. Arbery is now in between the two trucks.
Dial says this is where the video of the deadly shooting that was released begins. This is also the point in which Greg McMichael calls 911 for the first time.
Video shows Travis McMichael with his shotgun outside of his truck with his back to the driver side door. Arbery is seen running around the McMichaels truck on the passenger side, by this time Travis McMichael is on the front side of the driver side door with his shotgun.
“He sees Travis McMichael and makes the decision to turn and engage Travis McMichael,” said Dial. “He turns you hear a shot, then you see Mr. McMichael moving backwards with Mr. Arbery. Obviously they were engaged in a physical confrontation at this point. They go off-screen. You then hear a second shot.”
“They come back into view of the camera. Mr. Arbery is striking Mr. McMichael and then you see a third shot occur,” Dial said.
It’s not until months later, on May 13, that Roddie Bryan told an investigator he overheard Travis McMichael use a racial slur after shooting Arbery, but before police arrived.
Dial testified Bryan gave a statement that Travis McMichael said “f-----g n----r.”
Dial also revealed investigators found other instances when Travis McMichael used racial slurs on his social media and in messages, including one instance on Jan. 2 on Instagram.
The defense attorney for Travis McMichael, Jason Sheffield, argued Travis acted in self-defense when he shot Arbery three times. Sheffield also said earlier thefts in the neighborhood led to Travis following 25-year-old Arbery.
Magistrate Judge Wallace Harrell found there was enough evidence to charge all three men with felony murder clearing the way for the trial to continue in the Arbery case.
It’s not yet clear when the trial will begin.