Georgia man allegedly used racial slur after shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery

Evidence revealed in court Thursday in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery alleges that the young black man was repeatedly boxed in by two pickup trucks as he desperately tried to escape.

A Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent says a white man then shot him in the chest, the first of three shots with a pump-action shotgun. Agent Richard Dial testified that the driver of the second pickup truck, Roddie Bryan, said Travis McMichael then stood over Arbery’s body and said a racial epithet before police arrived.

The evidence was presented to support murder charges against McMichael and his father Greg McMichael, as well as Bryan. It also could factor into a federal investigation into whether hate crime charges are warranted.

The three men appeared via video link from jail for their probable-cause hearing following a week of angry protests in the U.S. over law enforcement biases against victims of colour.

Gregory McMichael, left, and his son Travis McMichael pose for a booking photo after they were arrested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. (Glynn County Sheriff via Reuters)

Jesse Evans, appointed as a special prosecutor in the case, said Arbery “was chased, hunted down and ultimately executed” based on the evidence his team would present.

Glynn County Magistrate Judge Wallace E. Harrell scheduled the hearing to determine whether authorities have enough evidence of murder in Arbery’s killing to send the case to trial.

Charges resulted after video became public

Arbery was killed Feb. 23 after a white father and son armed themselves and gave chase when they spotted the 25-year-old black man running in their neighbourhood just outside the port city of Brunswick.

It wasn’t until May 7 that Greg McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34 were charged with felony murder and aggravated assault. Their arrests came two days after cellphone video of the shooting leaked online and stirred a national outcry.

WATCH: Protests demand justice for Arbery, May 9:

Protesters hit the streets in Georgia on what would’ve been Ahmaud Abery’s 26th birthday. Two men have been arrested and charged in connection to his fatal shooting. 2:05

The neighbour who filmed the video, 50-year-old William (Roddie) Bryan, was arrested later in May and charged with felony murder and illegally using a vehicle to try to confine and detain Arbery.

Georgia law defines felony murder as a killing caused by the commission of an underlying felony. It does not require intent to kill. The minimum penalty is life in prison with a chance of parole.

Family says Arbery was out for a jog

Largely peaceful protests following the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., and Arbery have led to outbreaks of violence in many larger cities, including Atlanta. 

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp promised a “strong state law enforcement presence” in the Brunswick area Thursday to coincide with the court hearing.

Defence attorneys requested the hearing to make prosecutors show whether they have probable cause to charge the men with murder.

Greg McMichael told police after the shooting in February that he suspected Arbery of committing break-ins in the neighbourhood. He said Arbery attacked his son before being shot.

Arbery’s family has said he was merely out jogging. The former high school football player ran to stay in shape and lived about three kilometres from the subdivision where he was killed. His mother said he planned to start technical college in the fall to become an electrician.

Defence attorneys for both McMichaels have said much remains unknown about what led to the shooting and have cautioned against rushing to judgment. An attorney for Bryan has said he was merely a witness to Arbery’s death.

All three defendants remain jailed in Glynn County. A different judge will have to decide whether to allow them to go free on bond.

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