GBI agent: Roddie Bryan called Arbery a ‘joker’ as his body lay nearby

BRUNSWICK - William “Roddie” Bryan had never seen Ahmaud Arbery and didn’t know if a crime had been committed when he left his front porch, hopped in his truck and helped two neighbors chase the 25-year-old through their subdivision, a GBI agent testified Thursday.

But he suspected the Black man “had done something wrong” as Arbery fled past his house with Greg and Travis McMichael in pursuit, he would later tell investigators.

“I cut him off pretty good,” Bryan, now 52, told the police.

GBI agent Jason Seacrist said there was a small dent on the driver’s side of Bryan’s pickup that Bryan attributed to the chase. Cotton fibers were also found on the truck’s bed liner that were “consistent” with the white T-shirt Arbery was wearing that afternoon, a forensics expert said during the fourth day of testimony in the high-profile federal hate crimes trial. A partial handprint belonging to Arbery was also recovered from the side of Bryan’s Chevy Silverado.

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“Should we have been chasing him? I don’t know,” Bryan chuckled as he spoke with a Glynn County police officer at the scene that afternoon. He also referred to Arbery as “the Black guy” and a “joker” as Arbery’s body lay in the street nearby, Seacrist testified.

“When I see him come around the the corner right there, it was almost like the Black guy was tired of running,” Bryan said in a recorded interview played for the jury.

Bryan would agree to sit for two lengthy interviews with Seacrist just days before his arrest. He even took the GBI agent on a “drive-thru recreation” of his route through Satilla Shores that afternoon.

Bryan and the McMichaels were convicted of murder last fall. Now they face federal hate crimes charges, accused of targeting Arbery because of his race. At last year’s state trial, prosecutors suggested that Arbery, who lived two miles away, might have escaped the neighborhood if Bryan hadn’t cut him off and rerouted him back toward the father and son.

Credit: Associated Press

Credit: Associated Press

“As he was running toward the exit, was he running toward home as well?” federal prosecutor Bobbi Bernstein asked Thursday afternoon.

“Yes,” Seacrist told her.

Bryan told police that before joining the pursuit, he called out to the men chasing Arbery and asked, “Y’all got him?”

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It was the former hardware store employee who filmed the cellphone video of Arbery collapsing in the road after being shot twice at close range by the younger McMichael. He was later asked why he chased him and began recording.

“I figured he had done something wrong. I didn’t know for sure,” Bryan told investigators. “It was instinct, man. I don’t know. I didn’t know if he stole something. I didn’t know if he shot somebody.”

It was also revealed Thursday afternoon that a vanity plate depicting the old Georgia state flag had been removed from the front of Travis McMichael’s truck when the GBI examined the vehicle in May 2020. Georgia’s prior flag, flown from 1956 through 2001, prominently featured the Confederate battle emblem. The plate could be seen in officers’ body camera footage from the day of Arbery’s killing, but it was gone by the time the McMichaels were arrested 74 days later, Seacrist said.

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Inside the lid of the truck’s toolbox, GBI agents found a sticker of a blue Confederate cross above the initials “G.O.B., according to a photograph shown in court.

Seacrist said he wasn’t sure what the abbreviation stood for. But outside the courthouse, Arbery’s father thought he had a pretty good idea.

“Looks like the good ol’ boy was trying to hide some of that racism,” Marcus Arbery told reporters.