The white Georgia man accused of killing an unarmed black man, Ahmaud Arbery, used a racial slur after the fatal shooting, according to another suspect's account to an investigator.
The allegation was revealed as the prosecution presented its case at a preliminary hearing on Thursday morning for defendants Gregory McMichael, 64, his son Travis McMichael, 34, and their neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan, 50.
Glynn County Judge Wallace E. Harrell decided there was enough evidence to proceed.
The trio was arrested last month in the death of Arbery in February. The McMichaels appeared in court via a video from jail. Bryan was not present for Thursday's hearing.
Special agent Richard Dial with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said during the hearing that Bryan said during a May 13 interview that he heard Travis McMichael say, "f---ing n-word" after Arbery had been shot.
The defense noted that Bryan had been interviewed before May 13 and had not mentioned that Travis McMichael used a racial slur.
Dial went on to say that Travis McMichael had also previously used the n-word on social media in January, allegedly responding to an unspecified Instagram post that it would have been better if someone had "blown the f---ing n-word's head off."
The special agent also talked about another instance when Travis McMichael, who was in the Coast Guard, allegedly used the slur.
“One particular one that comes to mind was he made the statement that he loved his job because he’s out on a boat and there aren’t any n-words anywhere,” Dial testified Thursday.
The McMichaels were taken into custody on May 7 and charged with felony murder and aggravated assault for their role in Arbery's death after a video of the fatal shooting was released. Bryan was arrested two weeks later on charges of felony murder and attempted false imprisonment.
Arbery, 25, was shot to death in the coastal city of Brunswick on Feb. 23 after he was pursued by the McMichaels. His family said he was out for a jog, while the McMichaels said they thought he was a burglary suspect.
Video from Bryan's home and from his cellphone was addressed in court by Dial and provided more details of the incident:
- Travis McMichael gets out of the truck and is allegedly holding a gun in a pointed position.
- Arbery sees this as he's running, changes direction and runs around the opposite side of the vehicle.
- Travis McMichael moves around to the front of the truck. When Arbery sees Travis McMichael again at the front of the truck he allegedly engages him.
- A gunshot is heard, Arbery and Travis McMichael go off screen, and then there is a second shot followed by a third shot.
- After being shot, Arbery gets past Travis McMichael and starts to run again but falls.
- During all of this, Gregory McMichael is in the back of the truck and at one point calls 911 before dropping his phone and pulling out his gun.
According to evidence presented in court, Arbery was shot in the center of his chest, upper left chest around the armpit and his right wrist. The first shot hit Arbery in the chest.
In court, Dial suggested there was evidence Arbery was also struck by Bryan's pickup after he allegedly drove to the confrontation and blocked the victim as he ran.
A prosecutor said in court Thursday that Arbery "was chased, hunted down and ultimately executed at the hands of these men. He was defenseless and he was unarmed."
Witnesses have confirmed that they would see Arbery out for runs in the neighborhood, known as Satilla Shores, Dial said during the hearing Thursday.
Recent burglaries in the area had been discussed on a Satilla Shores Facebook page.
The McMichaels said they armed themselves before pursuing Arbery because they believed he might have had a gun, according to a Glynn County police report. Lawyers for the family have said that Arbery was unarmed.
Gregory McMichael told officers that Arbery “began to violently attack” Travis, who fired after the two “started fighting over the shotgun,” the police report said.
Bryan is accused of using his vehicle to "attempt to confine and detain Ahmaud Arbery without legal authority" during the incident, according to a state criminal warrant.
Investigators believe the "underlying felony" of false imprisonment by Bryan "helped cause the death of Ahmaud Arbery," Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds said at a news conference last month.
Kevin Gough, a lawyer for Bryan, told NBC's "TODAY" show last month that his client was only a witness to the shooting and followed the McMichaels because he wanted a photo of Arbery.
"There had been a number of crimes in the neighborhood, and he didn't recognize him, and a vehicle that he did recognize was following him," Gough said.
In court Thursday, the lawyer described Bryan's actions as "what any patriotic American citizen would have done under the same circumstances."
He said that Arbery's family and its supporters were seeking justice, but that he also "demands justice" for Bryan, who he argued had nothing to do with Arbery's demise.
Bob Rubin, an attorney for Travis McMichael, has said that Arbery's death is a tragedy, "but that does not mean a crime has been committed."
Attorneys for both Travis and Gregory McMichael have cautioned against a rush to judgment in the case.
"So often the public accepts a narrative driven by an incomplete set of facts, one that vilifies a good person, based on a rush to judgment, which has happened in this case," said a statement quoting Laura Hogue, who with her husband, Frank Hogue, is representing Gregory McMichael.