Officer: Greg McMichael was ‘amped up’ after Arbery was fatally shot

BRUNSWICK – Greg McMichael seemed insistent that Ahmaud Arbery was responsible for a string of break-ins when he grabbed his gun, grabbed his son, and chased the 25-year-old Arbery through their neighborhood, one officer testified Tuesday morning.

But a Glynn County detective who took the stand next said McMichael told him he wasn’t sure Arbery had ever actually stolen anything.

Tuesday marked the third day of testimony in the trial of three men charged with murder, false imprisonment and other felonies in the highly publicized Feb. 23, 2020, fatal shooting.

Arbery was Black. The defendants — Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan — are white.

Officer Jeff Brandeberry had recently rejoined the Glynn County Police Department and was working his second shift when the McMichaels got into a pickup truck that afternoon and pursued Arbery through their Satilla Shores subdivision.

Brandeberry, who took the initial statement from the elder McMichael at the scene, said the man had Arbery’s blood on him as the shot body lay in the road behind him.

“He was pretty amped up,” Brandeberry said of Greg McMichael’s demeanor. “He appeared a little upset, and he was talking a lot with his hands, using gestures.”

It was Travis McMichael who shot the unarmed Arbery at close range with a Remington 12-gauge shotgun in the middle of the street. But Greg McMichael, armed in the bed of his son’s Ford F-150 pickup during the chase, said he would have shot Arbery too, if he could have, according to the transcript read aloud by Brandeberry in court.

“To be perfectly honest with you, if I could’ve got a shot at the guy, I’d have shot him myself ‘cause he was — he was that violently...” Greg McMichael told him before they were interrupted by a bystander at the scene. McMichael also said they told Arbery repeatedly to stop as he ran from them.

Glynn County Detective Parker Marcy also interviewed Greg McMichael later that afternoon at police headquarters. McMichael told him he had seen surveillance footage of a man repeatedly entering a home under construction in their neighborhood, and that he felt certain Arbery was the guy when he ran past his home that afternoon as McMichael reupholstered boat cushions in his driveway.

But he told the detective he wasn’t sure if Arbery had ever actually taken anything from the vacant house, which had no doors and wasn’t secured.

“I don’t know the guy has actually stolen anything out of there,” he told Marcy at the police station. “But he keeps going back there over and over again.”

Prosecutors said Arbery feared for his life as he ran from the men for more than five minutes, and a former Glynn County officer testified Monday that Bryan said an exhausted Arbery “had to stop and catch his breath” before he was killed.

Reading from his interview transcript, Marcy said the McMichaels had tried to get Arbery to quit running, and that Greg McMichael later admitted telling him, “I’ll blow your (expletive) head off. … I was trying to convey to this guy we’re not playing.”

Greg McMichael also described how his son and their neighbor hemmed Arbery in with their trucks just before the shooting, according to Marcy.

“He was cornered like … like … like a rat,” McMichael told him during the interview.

Defense attorneys contend their clients were trying to detain Arbery under Georgia’s previously existing citizen’s arrest law. They’ve described Satilla Shores as “a neighborhood on edge,” and said Ahmaud Arbery was seen on surveillance cameras entering the home under construction on at least four previous occasions. He also returned to the home on the afternoon he was killed, according to surveillance video played in court Tuesday.

McMichael told the detective there had been “numerous” break-ins and incidents of vehicles being entered, and McMichael referred to Arbery as a “prime suspect” during his interview.

“Logic tells you that this guy may be the one that’s doing it,” Greg McMichael told Marcy the day of the shooting.

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski noted that a Georgia Power employee stopped at the vacant home and used a port-a-potty on the front lawn while police and paramedics were already at the scene of Arbery’s killing farther inside the neighborhood.

Surveillance footage played in court showed Arbery leaving the house that afternoon and running into the neighborhood, followed by the McMichaels in Travis’ truck.

About 12 minutes later, a Glynn County ambulance and firetruck could be seen entering the subdivision after Arbery was shot. Then, seven minutes later, the Georgia Power utility truck parked outside the home on Satilla Drive and a man walked into the lavatory.

“Where’s Mr. Ahmaud Arbery?” Dunikoski asked Marcy. “Is Mr. Arbery lying dead at the time this guy steps on the property?”

Jason Sheffield, Travis McMichael’s attorney, objected, calling her question “irrelevant.”

“That’s ridiculous,” he said. “What’s the purpose of asking if he’s dead at the time somebody’s urinating in a port-a-potty?”

Dunikoski fired back.

“All kinds of people come onto this property,” she said. “And Mr. Arbery is dead. Because he’s gone on this property. That’s the relevance of this evidence.”

Outside the courthouse, Arbery’s mother called the day’s testimony “disturbing.”

“It’s very saddening, knowing that my son had just been at that same property minutes before,” said Wanda Cooper Jones. “Then another guy came by in this Georgia Power truck, to the same property. And that gentleman is alive today.”