One of the three white men on trial for murdering Ahmaud Arbery said they had the black jogger “trapped like a rat” before he was shot dead, a police detective testified Wednesday.
Gregory McMichael, 65, his son Travis McMichael, 35, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, are accused of chasing down 25-year-old Arbery when they saw him running through their Georgia neighborhood in February 2020.
The men say they suspected Arbery of committing a crime before Travis McMichael allegedly shot the jogger at close range minutes into the pursuit.
Glynn County police detective Sgt. Roderic Nohilly told jurors Wednesday that he spoke to Gregory McMichael at police headquarters several hours after the shooting.
Nohilly said McMichael told him Arbery “wasn’t out for no Sunday jog. He was getting the hell out of there.”
He told Nohilly that they started chasing Arbery to stop him from escaping, according to a transcript of the interview the detective read in court.
“He was trapped like a rat,” McMichael told the detective. “I think he was wanting to flee and he realized that you know he was not going to get away.”
Nohilly testified that he asked McMichael why he was chasing Arbery, saying, “Did this guy break into a house today?”
“Well that’s just it, I don’t know,” McMichael said, according to a transcript.
McMichael told Nohilly he recognized Arbery because he’d been recorded on security cameras several times inside a neighbor’s home that was under construction, the jury heard.
The defense argued the three men were legally justified in chasing and trying to detain Arbery because they reasonably believed he was a burglar.
“He had opportunity to flee further, you know,” McMichael told Nohilly, according to the transcript.
“We had chased him around the neighborhood a bit but he wasn’t winded at all. I mean, this guy, he was in good shape.”
Nohilly testified that he’d known McMichael for several years because the defendant would sometimes come by the police station to drop off paperwork when he worked at the local prosecutor’s office.
Prosecutors have previously noted the sometimes sympathetic treatment McMichael and the other defendants received at the scene of the crime.
The three men, who have all pleaded not guilty to murder, weren’t arrested until two months after the fatal shooting when video of the slaying was leaked online.
A man who called police after seeing Arbery inside the under-construction home just prior to the shooting also testified Wednesday, telling jurors he knew some things had previously been stolen from the site.
Matthew Albenze told jurors he went into his house and put his handgun in his pocket before calling a nonemergency police number from behind a tree at the curb.
Asked by prosecutors why he didn’t call 911, Albenze said: “I did not see an emergency.”
Arbery ran from the construction site toward the McMichaels’ home while Albenze was on the phone. Albenze had told investigators he believed Arbery ran after seeing him, jurors heard.
When asked if he had any guilt feelings given that Arbery was shot dead minutes later, Albenze said: “I did.”
“I felt like if he hadn’t seen me, maybe he wouldn’t have run away,” Albenze said.
The trial in Arbery’s killing began last week.
The jury itself has been the subject of controversy after defense attorneys struck down 11 out of 12 black potential jurors, leaving just one black juror and 11 white jurors to reach a verdict.
Arbery’s slaying was among the high-profile killings of black men that spurred nationwide Black Lives Matter protests last year.