Prosecuting attorney Linda Dunikoski told jurors Monday that three White men followed flimsy suspicions based on “assumptions and driveway decisions” when they pursued a 25-year-old Black man to a violent death on Feb. 23, 2020.

In short, Dunikoski told jurors, Ahmaud Arbery was hunted, trapped and murdered by Travis McMichael, 35, Greg McMichael, 65, and 52-year-old William “Roddie” Bryan.

Travis McMicheal shot the unarmed Arbery at close range with buckshot as the two men struggled for possession of McMichael’s 12-gauge shotgun, a confrontation that ended a harried chase in which the three men in two pickup trucks pursued Arbery as he ran through the streets of the Satilla Shores neighborhood.

The senior assistant attorney for the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office, Dunikoski told jurors the three defendants are groundless in their contentions that Arbery died as a result of self-defense in the course of a lawful citizen’s arrest.

Although Travis McMichael pulled the trigger, all three men are charged with murder because of alleged crimes that contributed to Arbery’s death.

“This case is really about assumptions and driveway decisions,” she told the jury, echoing her opening statements back on Nov. 5. “They made their decisions in their driveways to attack Ahmaud Arbery because he was a Black man running down the street. They assumed he committed a crime. They did not call 911. They wanted to stop him and question him before ever calling police.”

“You know what is going on here,” she added. “Mr. Arbery was under attack. They committed the four felonies, then shot and killed him. Not because he was a threat but because he wouldn’t talk ... And what did he do? He still ran away.”

But according to defense attorney Jason Sheffield, the unarmed Arbery used his fist as a “weapon” in an “assault” on his client, leaving Travis McMichael with no option but to fatally shoot him that day. Sheffield said McMichael was within his right to use deadly force against Arbery.

“This is where duty and responsibility and following the law become intertwined with heartache and tragedy,” Sheffield said. “You do have the right ... to stop a person, to hold and detain them for police.”

He asked the jury to find Travis McMicheal “not guilty on all charges.”

Defense attorneys and the prosecution laid out their respective cases for the jury, delivering closing arguments in a trial that intensified the national spotlight on this coastal community Monday with armed Black Panthers marching around the courthouse chanting slogans for “justice!”

Dunikoski will have one more opportunity for closing arguments when trial resumes at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. Judge Timothy Walmsley will then instruct the jury before it goes into deliberations.

On Monday, prosecutor Dunikoski urged the jury to render guilty verdicts on all three men on charges of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment and false imprisonment. Dunikoski told jurors the three men never mentioned a citizen’s arrest that day.

To effect a citizen’s arrest, a person must have “immediate knowledge of a felony,” |Dunikoski told jurors.

By his own admission, Dunikoski noted, Greg McMichael had no evidence that a crime had taken place when he saw Arbery running past the McMichaels’ home at 230 Satilla Drive shortly after 1 p.m. that day. Greg McMichael and Travis McMichael then armed themselves with a .357 magnum handgun and a 12-gauge shotgun respectively and pursued Arbery in a Ford F-150 pickup truck through the neighborhood — all without credible evidence of a crime, Dunikoski said.

Bryan was on his porch at 307 Burford Road when he saw Arbery running by moments later with the McMichaels chasing him in a pickup truck. Bryan said he joined the chase in his Chevrolet Silverado pickup because his “instinct” told him Arbery had done something wrong, according to earlier testimony.

Dunikoski said the men used their pickup trucks as weapons, assaulting Arbery and blocking his escape. She quoted Greg McMichael’s assertion to police that the three men had Arbery “trapped like a rat,” Bryan following on Holmes Road as Arbery ran to where the McMichaels awaited with their pickup truck stopped near Satilla Drive.

Travis McMichael pointed the shotgun at Arbery as he ran toward the stopped F-150 pickup truck and away from the Bryan’s Silverado pickup truck, the video shows. Arbery veered right and ran around the passenger side of the pickup truck. Travis McMichael moved from his stance beside the driver’s side door to the front of the pickup truck, where Arbery lunged toward him, the video shows.

Sheffield told jurors about Travis McMichael’s law enforcement training as a U.S. Coast Guardsman and how he relied on that training in his deadly encounter with Arbery. He said McMichael applied that training when he pointed the shotgun at Arbery as he ran toward his pickup truck, hoping to “deescalate” the situation.

That training also informed McMichael’s belief that a “reasonable level of suspicion” existed to pursue Arbery that day as a possible suspect in recent thefts.

Sheffield said McMichael used verbal commands to gain compliance from Arbery, telling him to stop as he followed him in the pickup truck.

Sheffield said McMichael moved from the passenger side to the front of the truck in order to keep Arbery in his line of sight. He said McMichael did not want a confrontation. “He was saying, ‘please turn, please turn,’” Sheffield said.

He said McMichael blasted Arbery with fatal buckshot to the chest and shoulder from fear of losing the Remington 12-gauge shotgun to Arbery as the two men struggled for possession of the weapon in front of the stopped pickup truck. Bryan’s video shows Arbery reaching for McMichael’s gun barrel and throwing punches.

“Travis is thinking, ‘If this guy gets a hold of my shotgun, it’s not going to end well. He is going to get my shotgun and kill me ...’” Sheffield said. “He did it to protect himself.”

After being chased by men in pickup trucks while running through the streets of Satilla Shores for roughly five minutes, Arbery was desperate and scared when he engaged Travis McMichael in front of the pickup truck, Dunikoski said.

“You cannot claim self defense if your are the initial aggressor,” she said. “When you provoke the attack, you don’t get to claim self defense.”

She said Bryan ran Arbery into a ditch with his truck, one of many instances in which the men wielded the two pickup trucks like weapons, according to testimony.

“It’s three on one, two pickup trucks and two guns,” Dunikoski said. “Mr. Arbery had nothing on him, not even an ID or a cell phone, and they want you to believe that he is a danger to them.”

All this time, Dunikoski said, Arbery never said a word to the three men and never presented a threat. Arbery had no obligation under the law to stop or speak to the men just because they demanded it, she said.

“Guess what? We’re citizen’s of the United States,” Dunikoski said. “Other people can’t go up and stop us and hold us and detain us. They have to actually see us commit a crime in order to facilitate a citizen’s arrest.”

Sheffield described Satilla Shores as a community gripped in fear of crime at the time of the shooting.

Much of McMichaels’ suspicions centered on Arbery’s presence several times beginning in October 2019 at 220 Satilla Drive, a home under construction with open garage bays and no doors. Property owner Larry English of Douglas installed video surveillance at the structure. Surveillance video there captured Arbery in or around the house five times between Oct. 25 and the day of the fatal encounter.

English told police Arbery never stole anything or caused harm at 220 Satilla Drive.

English had reported to Satilla Shores residents that expensive electronics had been stolen from a boat inside the garage at 220 Satilla Drive. English later determined the theft occurred when the boat and trailer were stored in Douglas, but Travis McMichael did not know this, Sheffield said.

McMichael spotted Arbery outside 220 Satilla Drive while driving by after dark on Feb. 11, 2020, according to a 911 call he made that night. McMichael shined his headlights on Arbery. He told dispatchers Arbery reached for his pants waistline as if for a gun before running inside the structure. Based on this, according to testimony, McMichael said he had reason to suspect Arbery might be armed when he and Greg McMichael decided to arm themselves and pursue him on Feb. 23, 2020.

“Travis McMichael spent a decade learning about duty and responsibility,” Sheffield said. “These teachings were burned within his brain to the point of muscle memory so that he could perform his duty to his country and his community.”

But Sheffield said Travis McMichael only wanted to talk with Arbery or detain him for police when he and his father pursued him in the pickup truck. According to Sheffield, McMichael gained further suspicion of wrongdoing when he drove beside Arbery and told him the police had been called.

“Mr. Arbery bolts,” Sheffield said, referring to Arbery’s alleged decision to run rather than stop and comply with Travis McMichael’s requests.

Linda Hogue said Greg McMichael had just cause to suspect Arbery of wrongdoing when he saw Arbery “hauling ass” down Satilla Drive that day. They had seen surveillance videos with Arbery at or inside 230 Satilla Drive on several occasions, night and day. She said entering a structure with intent to commit a crime meets the definition of burglary, and Arbery had no good reason to be on another person’s property.

“Ahmaud Arbery was not an innocent victim plundering through Larry English’s house on Feb. 23, 2020,” Hogue said. “He was a recurring nighttime intruder and that is frightening and unsettling.”

“Greg McMichael is not a murderer,” she concluded. “He is not guilty.”

Bryan did not know the McMichaels prior to the incident, defense attorney Kevin Gouhg said. Likewise, Bryan did not know that the two men were armed or that the pursuit might end in a sudden cacophony of fatal gunfire, Gough said.

He noted that Bryan freely volunteered to police on the scene his cell phone recording of the pursuit’s deadly conclusion, a video that would spark national outrage and play a key role in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s decision to arrest the three defendants in May 2020.

“Roddie Bryan is not vigilante,” Gough said. “The inconvenient truth is that Roddie Bryan did not know and could know that the McMichaels had guns and he did not know that Travis McMichael would shoot Ahmaud Arbery. Isn’t it time, ladies and gentlemen, that we sent Roddie Bryan home?”

Regardless of the jury’s decision in superior court, the three men will remain in the Glynn County Detention Center, Glynn County Sheriff Neal Jump said. The men will be held in jail while awaiting trial early next year on federal hate crimes, including interference of rights and attempted kidnapping. The trial begins Feb. 7 with jury selection in U.S. District Court in Brunswick.

Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael also are charged with carrying and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence; the younger McMichael is charged additionally with discharging a firearm during a violent crime.

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