Defendant takes stand in trial over killing of Ahmaud Arbery

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — The defendant who fired the shotgun that killed Ahmaud Arbery testified in his murder trial, saying he wants to give his side of the story. Travis McMichael told Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley on Wednesday that he understands he’s not compelled to testify but said, “I want to explain what happened.”

McMichael’s testimony came as defense attorneys opened their case by building on arguments that their clients were lawfully trying to stop burglaries in their neighborhood.

McMichael’s testified that Arbery attacked him and grabbed his shotgun after he and two other white men pursued the 25-year-old Black man in their Georgia neighborhood. McMichael said he followed Arbery on Feb. 23, 2020, after his father came into their home in “almost a frantic state” and told him to “get your gun.” He said he believed Arbery was the same man he’d seen “creeping” outside a nearby unfinished house and that he might have broken in there.

Arbery was Black. The three defendants are white.

On Tuesday, prosecutors rested their case. Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski made the announcement Tuesday afternoon after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s lead investigator and medical examiner testified. Dr. Edmund Donoghue told jurors the shotgun blasts that hit Arbery punched a gaping hole in his chest and unleashed massive bleeding.

Jurors also saw autopsy photos that showed Arbery’s white T-shirt stained entirely red. Donoghue said Arbery was hit by two of the three shotgun blasts fired at him.

GBI Agent Richard Dial walked the jury through maps of the neighborhood and a drone video tracing Arbery’s route during the 5-minute chase.

The defense strategy will focus on Georgia’s citizen’s arrest and self-defense laws. The defense is arguing father and son Greg and Travis McMichael suspected 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery in burglaries and pursued him in a truck because they wanted to detain him for police in a citizen’s arrest.

The defense says Travis McMichael shot Arbery in self-defense after Arbery turned and fought during the chase.

Georgia lawmakers repealed most of the state’s citizen’s defense law in response to Arbery’s killing. Prosecutors say there’s no evidence of Arbery committing crimes in the men’s neighborhood to justify a pursuit by armed men.