The first police officer who responded to the scene of the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery testified on Monday that William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., the man who recorded video of Arbery being chased, never told him a citizen’s arrest of Arbery was being made.
Bryan also questioned if he should have been chasing Arbery in his truck.
Former Glynn County Police Officer Ricky Minshew testified he was in the area responding to a report of a “suspicious black male” on February 23, 2020, when he heard “two loud pop sounds.”
Minshew said he arrived on the scene of the shooting a short time later and observed two White males pacing and a Black male with a gunshot wound on the ground.
Minshew said he spoke with Bryan shortly after the shooting and testified about what Bryan told him that day. Reading from the transcript from his bodycam video, Minshew said he asked Bryan, “So, you’re a passerby coming through?” Bryan responded, “Not necessarily.”
Prosecutor Larissa Ollivierre asked Minshew if Bryan ever said he was trying to make a citizen’s arrest of Arbery. Minshew responded, “No, ma’am.”
Minshew said Bryan told him while he was in pursuit, he blocked Arbery with his truck “five times.”
Again reading from his bodycam transcript Minshew said Bryan told him, “Should I have been chasing him? I don’t know.” Bryan had told the officer “he was trying to get in my truck. He tried to get in my door,” referring to Arbery.
“When I rounded the corner out there, it was almost like the Black guy was tired of running,” Bryan told Minshew, according to the transcript. Minshew also testified that Bryan told him he felt like he was going to be thrown from his own truck trying to chase Arbery while not wearing a seatbelt. “He said, ‘Thrown through the damn windshield trying to chase this joker,’” Minshew said.
Bryan told Minshew that Arbery never said anything while he was being chased.
While prosecutors did not play video from Minshew’s bodycam, they did play the extended version of Bryan’s cell phone video of the chase and shooting for the court.
Ollivierre asked Minshew if he found any firearms upon his arrival at the scene. He said that he saw one pistol and a shotgun with a “significant amount of blood on it.”
The state also submitted photos and body camera images from Minshew as evidence.
Video of the killing surfaced more than two months after it happened, sparking widespread outrage and demonstrations just weeks before the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis set off a summer of nationwide protests against racial injustice. The three defendants are White and Arbery was Black.
Bryan and his neighbors, Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, are charged with malice and felony murder in connection with Arbery’s shooting. They also face charges of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony. All have pleaded not guilty.
Crime scene investigator testified
Earlier Monday, Glynn County crime scene investigator Sgt. Sheila Ramos testified that she arrived at the site of the killing and started taking photos as soon as she determined the scene had been secured.
As a prosecutor showed photos to the jury on Monday, Ramos identified the images, including Arbery’s body lying in the street under a bloodstained sheet, closeups of his wounds, blood stains on the pavement, the shotgun used to kill him lying in the grass and spent shotgun shells.
One photo showed a defendant, Gregory McMichael, speaking with an investigator on the scene.
Several jurors squirmed in their seats as the first few photos of Arbery were shown. Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, exhaled quietly as Ramos identified closeups of gaping gunshot wounds to Arbery’s chest and wrist.
Ramos said Arbery’s body had been moved by the time she arrived because first aid was provided.
Prosecutor Paul Camarillo showed Ramos a rectangular box, which she said contained the shotgun used to kill Arbery and four unfired and one fired shotgun shells. She said the shotgun “does contain biohazard. It has blood on it.”
Because the shotgun had blood on it, and was marked a biohazard, fingerprints were not recovered on the scene, she said.
Ramos said she didn’t find any objects in Arbery’s pockets, didn’t know his identity and didn’t know a video of the killing existed.
Ramos was the second witness to testify in the trial of Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan Jr.
First witness testified on Friday
On Friday, the jury of 11 White and one Black member heard the first witness.
Glynn County Police Officer William Duggan testified he responded to the scene of the shooting to find a Black man lying on the pavement and “a couple of other people walking around.”
Duggan said he felt Arbery was dead because of “the amount of blood loss I saw on the scene, the lack of rise and fall of the chest, and basically the gaping wound I saw in his chest. There was nothing I could do for him.”
Also on Friday, prosecutors and defense lawyers made opening arguments.
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski told the jury that the defendants tracked down Arbery and cornered and fatally shot him without evidence or knowledge he’d done anything wrong, despite saying they were attempting a citizen’s arrest.
“In this case, all three of these defendants did everything they did based on assumptions,” she said. “Not on facts, not on evidence – on assumptions.”
Attorneys for the McMichaels contended their clients were trying to conduct a citizen’s arrest of Arbery, whom they suspected of burglary after they and several neighbors had become concerned about individuals entering a home under construction.
“The evidence shows overwhelmingly that Travis McMichael honestly and lawfully attempted to detain Ahmaud Arbery according to the law and shot and killed him in self-defense,” said Bob Rubin, Travis McMichael’s defense attorney,
Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, said he would wait to present an opening statement until after the state presented its case.
Arbery’s mother was in the courtroom Friday and watched the video of her son’s death, later saying it was the first time she’d seen the video in its entirety.