The white man charged with murder after fatally shooting black jogger Ahmaud Arbery stood over him and called him a "f*****g n****r" as he lay dying in the street, according to testimony given Thursday during preliminary hearings for three suspects charged in his death.
Georgia Assistant Special Agent in Charge Richard Dial testified that William Bryan, who shot video of the deadly encounter, told investigators that Travis McMichael uttered the slur after hitting Arbery three times with shotgun blasts.
McMichael and his father, George, are charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 23 shooting that occurred while Arbery was jogging in the Georgia neighborhood where the McMichaels live.
Dial's testimony released several new details in the case, including that Bryan, a neighbor also charged with murder, hit Arbery with his truck as the three chased Arbery, with the McMichaels in one truck, and Bryan in another.
Bryan, too, had several messages on his phone that included "racial" terms and indicated he may have prejudged Arbery when he saw him that day, Dial said.
"There's evidence of Mr. Bryan's racist attitude in his communications, and from that I extrapolate the reason why he made assumptions he did that day," he said. "He saw a man running down the road with a truck following him, and I believe he made certain assumptions that were, at least in part, based upon his racial bias."
As Travis and his father Gregory McMichael attempted to head him off, Arbery turned and ran past the truck of Bryan, who struck him with the side of his truck, Dial said.
"I believe Mr. Arbery was being pursued, and he ran till he couldn't run anymore, and it was [a question of] turn his back to a man with a shotgun— or fight with his bare hands against the man with the shotgun," the state agent testified.
"He chose to fight. ... I believe Mr. Arbery's decision was to just try to get away, and when he felt like he could not escape, he chose to fight," Dial told the court.
Arbery repeatedly reversed directions and at one point jumped into a ditch trying to flee his pursuers, the Glynn County court heard on Thursday.
In a final bid to run around the McMichaels' truck, Travis McMichael exited the driver's seat and confronted Arbery, the agent said. He told police he shot him in self-defense after Arbery refused his order to get on the ground, Dial testified.
George McMichael has previously said his son opened fire after being violently attacked by Arbery.
State investigators took over the case last month amid a national outcry after Bryan's video went viral on social media. Local police interviewed the three after the shooting and released them without charges. Local district attorneys recused themselves, with one recommending no charges in the case. George McMichael, a former cop, was a veteran investigator in their department.
Two days after joining the investigation, state agents arrested the McMichaels on murder charges. Bryan's arrest followed. In an interview before his arrest, Bryan claimed he was merely a witness, and not a participant, in Arbery's death.
The suspects have not entered pleas. All are being held without bail. Their attorneys have maintained they are not guilty.