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Prosecution casts doubt on 'citizen’s arrest' defense in trial of men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery

Prosecutors continued to try to pick apart the defense that the men were attempting to detain Arbery for police. 

Prosecutors on Tuesday continued to try to pick apart the defense that the three white men on trial in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery were attempting to conduct a citizen’s arrest. 

Jeff Brandeberry, a Glynn County, Georgia, police patrol officer who responded to the scene, testified Tuesday morning that Greg McMichael, one of the three men accused in the fatal shooting, never said he was trying to make a citizen’s arrest at the scene.

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski asked Brandeberry whether McMichael ever used words like “trespass” or “arrest” or said the men were trying to detain Arbery while they waited for officers to investigate him.

“Did he ever tell you while you’re talking to him that he was attempting to make a citizen’s arrest?” she asked.

“Did he ever tell you that ‘Oh, we’re going to detain this guy and wait for the police to come and investigate?’” she also asked. 

“No, ma’am,” Brandeberry responded to both questions. 

Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael’s son, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan are also standing trial. The McMichaels armed themselves and used Travis McMichael’s pickup truck to pursue Arbery, 25, a Black man, after they spotted him running in their south Georgia neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020. Bryan joined the chase and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery in the street three times at close range. The three men were charged months later after the video leaked online. The video sparked national outrage.

Image: Defense attorney Franklin Hogue, left, and prosecutor Linda Dunikoski, right, talk before the trial of Greg McMichael and his son, Travis, and a neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan starts in the Glynn County Courthouse on  Nov. 9, 2021, in Brunswick, Ga.
Defense attorney Franklin Hogue and prosecutor Linda Dunikoski talk before the trial of Greg McMichael, his son, Travis, and a neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan, starts in the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga., on Tuesday.Stephen B. Morton / Pool via AP

Defense attorneys have said the men were justified to chase and to try to detain Arbery because security cameras had recorded him inside a nearby home under construction and they suspected he was a burglar.

Each defense team is expected to argue that the men were making a citizen’s arrest, which was then permitted under state law, a claim prosecutors have tried to undercut with testimony from officers who talked with the men after the shooting.

The first police officer on the scene testified Monday that Bryan never told him that they were trying to make a citizen’s arrest.

Testimony on Tuesday focused on an officer who spoke with Greg McMichael.

According to transcripts read in court Tuesday, McMichael said he went into his bedroom and got a .357 Magnum handgun even though he did not know whether Arbery was armed.

“I don’t know if the guy’s armed because the other night the guy stuck his hands down his pants,” McMichael said, according to the transcript. 

“I don’t take any chances,” he said, according to the transcript.

Brandeberry said McMichael told him that he suspected that Arbery was a man seen on video breaking into a nearby home on “numerous occasions.”

According to the transcript, the man in the videos had been seen entering the house, and “nobody could ever catch him.”

Later, McMichael said in the transcript that the man “makes frequent trips to the neighborhood and gets caught on video cameras like every third or fourth night breaking into places and nobody’s been able to catch him.”

Arbery was unarmed.

Prosecutors also questioned Glynn County Police Detective Parker Marcy, who spoke to McMichael at police headquarters the same day.

The prosecution also asked Marcy whether McMichael ever used the word “arrest” or the phrase “citizen’s arrest” or whether he indicated what Arbery “was going to be arrested for.”

“No, ma’am,” Marcy responded.

Marcy said that according to the transcript, McMichael said he was going to “hold” Arbery and call police so they could come “check him out.”

Marcy also testified that McMichael said he armed himself with the “driving factor in my mind was that my son had a missing pistol” and he suspected that Arbery had stolen it, although he admitted that he did not have any evidence. 

“I’m pretty certain this guy, well I don’t know for a fact and I have no reason to think that he did it, other than the fact that this guy’s been doing this crap over and over and over,” McMichael said, according to the transcript.

Attorneys for the McMichaels have said Travis McMichael acted in self-defense when Arbery threw punches and tried to grab his gun.