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Ahmaud Arbery case suspects due in court today

From left, Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William Bryan have been charged with murder in the death of Ahmaud Arbery. (Photos: Glynn County jail)
From left, Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William Bryan have been charged with murder in the death of Ahmaud Arbery. (Photos: Glynn County jail)

Tensions high ahead of hearing for the three men charged in Arbery’s Feb.23 death

Tensions were rising to a boil when father and son Greg and Travis McMichael were arrested last month on charges of felony murder and aggravated assault in the death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery.

William “Roddie” Bryan, who filmed the harrowing cellphone video capturing Arbery’s final seconds alive, joined them at the Glynn County Jail two weeks later, charged with felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

The suspects’ preliminary hearing is at hand as another video - of Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin with his knee on George Floyd’s neck - has raised tensions further. Protests have erupted nationwide since Floyd’s death, with some shouting Ahmaud’s name as they protest in Floyd’s memory.

Arbery and Floyd were African-Americans. Chauvin, charged with second-degree murder, and the three suspects charged in the Arbery case are white.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: More on the Ahmaud Arbery case

Protesters are expected to gather outside the Glynn County Courthouse throughout the day, culminating in a rally later in the afternoon. The McMichaels and Bryan won’t be there; due to coronavirus concerns, they will remain in jail, appearing at their own hearings via video.

Gov. Brian Kemp, who has deployed thousands of National Guard troops throughout the state, said law enforcement in Brunswick will be on high alert.

“We’re in a very precarious point right now, because you have one or two people who are going to cause an instance like you’ve seen in other states when somebody gets shot,” Kemp said Tuesday.

What will happen inside the courtroom remains something of a mystery. Probable cause hearings, especially in high-profile cases, often produce news. Attorneys for the three defendants have said little about their strategy but insist the full story has yet to be told.

Bond is not supposed to be a part of the hearing today, but lawyers for Arbery’s family said at a press conference earlier this week they expect it will be discussed, if not decided.

Greg McMichael, a retired investigator with the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s office, told police on Feb. 23, the day of the shooting, that he believed Arbery matched the description of a burglary suspect. When he saw Arbery running in their neighborhood just south of Brunswick, McMichael and his son armed themselves and followed him in their truck.

Prosecutors say Bryan joined their pursuit, eventually trapping Arbery, who tried to run past the McMichael’s pick-up but was confronted by Travis McMichael. The two men briefly tussled before Travis McMichael fired three shots at Arbery, who was unarmed, authorities say. Family and friends say the avid runner was out for a jog.

RELATED: State guidelines ignored by prosecutors in Arbery death probe