A jury Wednesday found Travis McMichael, his father, Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor William Bryan guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery outside of Brunswick, Georgia.
Travis McMichael was found guilty on all nine charges, including malice murder after the jury deliberated for about 11 hours over two days.
His father and Bryan were found guilty on counts of felony murder.
Each of the three men faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Judge Timothy Walmsley ordered that they remain in the custody of the sheriff.
The three men accused of Arbery’s Feb. 23, 2020, killing were initially cleared by the local district attorney.
But after video of the deadly encounter was leaked, a public outcry led to the case being transferred to a different district attorney and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation charged the trio in May.
Each of the men was charged with nine counts: one count of malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment, and one count of criminal attempt to commit a felony.
Travis McMichael, 35, who was driving in a pickup truck with his father, testified that he made the first contact with Arbery, 25, who was reportedly jogging in the Glynn County neighborhood where the McMichaels lived.
McMichael said he sought out Arbery after his 65-year-old father told him "the guy who has been breaking in down the road" had just run past their home.
McMichael said he had previously encountered a "lurking" Arbery nearly two weeks earlier, outside a nearby home that was under construction and inside of which Arbery had been videotaped on numerous occasions.
McMichael claimed that, during their initial interaction, Arbery reached near his waistband, prompting McMichael to flee.
On Feb. 23, however, both McMichaels armed themselves before pursuing Arbery in their pickup truck.
McMichael said Arbery initially stopped when he pulled up alongside him, but again took off running when McMichael told him police were en route.
That began a sequence in which prosecutors say Arbery was chased and prevented from fleeing by two pickup trucks — the one with the McMichaels inside and another driven by the 52-year-old Bryan, who also videotaped the encounter. At some point, a struggle between Travis McMichael and Arbery ensued, and Travis McMichael admits to fatally shooting Arbery.
"He had my gun," McMichael testified on Wednesday. "He struck me. It was obvious that he was attacking me, that if he would have gotten the shotgun from me, then this was a life-or-death situation, and I’m going to have to stop him from doing this, so I shot."
The video of the incident records the crucial moments of the encounter, but much of the struggle is obscured by McMichael’s pickup truck. McMichael fired his shotgun three times, with two of the blasts hitting Arbery at close range, according to the autopsy.
Arbery’s family has claimed the incident was racially motivated and there have been allegations of racist language used by the defendants. Prominent Black civil rights activists such as Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton have made appearances in the courtroom, leading to a brief failed attempt by the defense to have the controversial leaders ejected from the proceedings.
Numerous political leaders have commented on the trial, including President Joe Biden who tweeted on the one-year anniversary of the shooting: "A Black man should be able to go for a jog without fearing for his life. Today, we remember Ahmaud Arbery’s life and we dedicate ourselves to making this country safer for people of color." The comments appeared to prejudge the guilt of the defendants, continuing a trend of Biden remarking on cases that had not yet been decided by a jury, as he had done with Kenosha shooting defendant Kyle Rittenhouse.
Charges were filed against Bryan, the last of the three defendants charged, on May 21, 2020 – just four days before the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
The Arbery and Floyd deaths sparked a summer of social justice protests nationwide that were dominated by Black Lives Matter activists and, often, members of the left-wing group antifa. Frequently the events turned destructive or violent, resulting in several cities having businesses looted or burned down, countless assaults, and several deaths.
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