On the day of the shooting, a neighbor across the street saw Mr. Arbery in the house and called the police. Mr. Arbery left the house soon after, and ran down the street. Gregory McMichael spotted him and, along with his son, jumped into a truck and gave chase. Moments later, the third defendant, Mr. Bryan, began chasing Mr. Arbery as well.
At the trial, defense lawyers sought to show that the men were acting that day out of a “duty and responsibility” to detain a man who they felt they had reasonable grounds to believe was a burglar, as Robert Rubin, a lawyer for Travis McMichael, put it. In her closing argument, Laura D. Hogue, a lawyer for Gregory McMichael, noted that Mr. Arbery had been on the property before and said he had become “a recurring nighttime intruder — and that is frightening, and unsettling.”
Travis McMichael was the only defendant to take the stand. He told the court he took his shotgun out during the pursuit because his U.S. Coast Guard training had taught him that showing a weapon could de-escalate a potentially violent situation.
He testified that he believed he had little choice but to shoot Mr. Arbery once they clashed. “It was obvious that he was attacking me, that if he would have gotten the shotgun from me, then this was a life-or-death situation,” he said. “So I shot.”
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In her final arguments, Ms. Dunikoski, the lead prosecutor, pushed back against the idea that an unarmed man running down the street would constitute a threat to three men, two of whom were armed, in a pair of pickup trucks.
The men began their attack on Mr. Arbery, she said, “because he was a Black man running down the street.”