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Slain Black jogger in Georgia was 'under attack': prosecutor

(AFP)

Three white men on trial in the US state of Georgia for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery chased him in their pickup trucks simply because he was a “Black man running down the street,” the chief prosecutor said Monday in closing arguments to the high-profile case.

Gregory McMichael, 65, a retired police officer, his son Travis, 35, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, are facing murder and other charges for the February 2020 shooting of the 25-year-old Arbery.

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A graphic video of the shooting of the unarmed Arbery went viral on social media and added fuel to last year’s protests against racial injustice sparked by the murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The three defendants have said they suspected Arbery was a burglar who had been active in their neighborhood of Satilla Shores and invoked a since-repealed Georgia state law that allows ordinary citizens to make arrests.

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said the three had no reason to try to detain Arbery, however, and never told him they were trying to arrest him as he jogged through the neighborhood.

“None of the defendants saw Mr. Arbery commit any crime that day,” she said. “They assumed he must have committed some crime that day.”

The McMichaels, who were armed with a shotgun and a handgun, and Bryan chased Arbery based on “assumptions and driveway decisions,” Dunikoski said.

“They made their decision to attack Ahmaud Arbery in their driveways because he was a Black man running down the street,” she said.

Arbery was chased by the men in their pickup trucks for five minutes until he was “trapped like a rat,” Dunikoski said, using a description that Gregory McMichael gave police.

The jury was shown video of Travis and Gregory McMichael following Arbery in their truck and Bryan chasing them in his own vehicle and filming the scene on his cell phone. 

At one point, Arbery attempts to run around the front of the McMichaels’ stopped truck.

Travis McMichael, who had gotten out of the vehicle, opens fire with a 12-gauge shotgun. A wounded Arbery is seen struggling with McMichael before being killed by another blast.

– ‘Under attack’ –

Dunikoski, the prosecutor, said all Arbery did was run away from his pursuers.

“Mr. Arbery was under attack,” she said. “He ran away from them from five minutes.”

Arbery did not have a weapon and issued no threats to the men pursuing him in their trucks, she said.

“He’s not threatening anybody. He’s just running away from the man with the shotgun,” Dunikoski said.

“They attacked him and shot and killed him,” she said. “They can’t claim self-defense.”

Urging the jury to convict all three defendants, Dunikoski said “they all acted as a party to the crime.

“But for their choices, Ahmaud Arbery would be alive.”

There is only a single Black juror on the 12-member jury hearing the high-profile case although about 25 percent of the 85,000 residents of Glynn County, where the trial is taking place, are Black.

Dozens of Black clergy rallied outside the Glynn County courthouse last week after Bryan’s lawyer, Kevin Gough, asked Judge Timothy Walmsley to bar “Black pastors” from the gallery.

Gough asked the judge to declare a mistrial after complaining to the judge about the presence of African-American civil rights leaders Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson in the public gallery.

“We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here,” Gough said, claiming their presence was influencing the jury.

Walmsley dismissed the defense motion, saying anyone is welcome to attend the trial so long as they are not disruptive.

Closing arguments in the trial come just days after the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse in another closely watched case.

Rittenhouse, 18, shot dead two men during protests and riots against police brutality in Wisconsin last year. He claimed self-defense and was acquitted of all charges on Friday. 

Chris Lefkow

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