Friends praised the white father and son accused of pursuing and killing a Black jogger in coastal Georgia as happy and jovial men who always treated everyone equally, but prosecutors presented text and social media messages during a bond hearing on Thursday that belied the kind reputation those friends put forth.
And Ahmaud Arbery’s mother told the court that Travis McMichael, 34, and Gregory McMichael, 64, should remain behind bars until their trial because her son did not return home, according to the Brunswick News.
Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley has not yet made a decision; the bond hearing will resume Friday morning.
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Wanda Jones Cooper, Arbery’s mother, was the first prosecution witness on Thursday after five friends of the McMichaels spoke.
“No matter how fast he ran, or how quickly he turned, these men refused to let him go home,” Jones said. “They should not go home now. These men are as dangerous today as they were on February 23.”
Arbery, 25, was jogging through the McMichaels’ Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick on February 23 when the father and son thought he looked suspicious, as CrimeOnline previously reported. They jumped in their truck to follow him and called a neighbor, William Bryan Jr, 50, who got in his own truck to assist. Bryan, who filmed the murder, claimed he was solely a witness, but authorities allege he used his truck to confine and detain Arbery in the minutes leading up to the shooting.
Bryan’s video showed the McMichaels chasing Arbery for several minutes around the neighborhood in their truck, before blocking him in. Bryan blocked Arbery with his truck from behind as the McMichaels circled around and stopped in front of the victim. Travis McMichael then got out his truck, armed with a shotgun. A scuffle broke out as Arbery tried to run around the truck, and Travis McMichael shot Arbery, who was unarmed and dressed for jobbing, three times.
Arbery’s family pushed to have the McMichaels charged, but nothing happened until Bryan’s video went viral in May. The McMichaels were arrested two days later, and Bryan was taken into custody not long after All three have been charged with multiple counts, including malice murder, aggravated assault, and false imprisonment.
On Thursday, Travis McMichael’s childhood friend Zackary Langford testified to his friend’s character, the News said. He, along with all the witnesses supporting bond for the father and son, said he’d never seen or heard anything from his friend that would lead him to believe he was racist. But prosector Jesse Evans showed Langford a text message sent to him by McMichael on November 28, 2019, that mentioned “shooting a crackhead coon with gold teeth.” Langford replied by text, “he needed some Newports (cigarettes).”
Langford initially said he didn’t recall the exchange, but then said he did. “We were talking about a raccoon,” he said.
Evans also showed him a social media post that Langford sent to McMichael, who replied, “Ha ha ha. Sayonara you slant-eyed f#@$.” Langford said he didn’t recall that message.
The McMichaels’ friends all said they were willing to put up collateral for their friends’ bond and said they believed the men were honorable and would return to trial. But Arbery’s mother said that wasn’t the point.
“These men are proud of what they have done,” Jones told the judge, the Associated Press reported. “They want to go home because they think in their selfish minds that they are the good guys.”
The McMichaels’ attorney Robert Rubin, told the judge that he has “substantial evidence” that Arbery was in Satilla Shores that day “for nefarious purposes,” but he did not explain what that might have been. Gregory McMichael told investigators that he pursued Arbery because he resembled the suspect in a recent series of burglaries — burglaries the local police say didn’t happen.
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[Featured image: Ahmaud Arbery/handout, Gregory and Travis McMichael/Glynn County Sheriff’s Office]