BRUNSWICK — Ahmaud Arbery was still alive when police arrived in the minutes after he was fatally shot, but officers did not immediately tend to him and showed little skepticism of the suspects’ accounts on the scene, newly released body camera videos show.
The videos filed in court provide a comprehensive account of what happened after police and then emergency medical technicians arrived at the site of the shooting, one of many killings of Black Americans to spark outrage and accusations of racism this year. Authorities waited months to make arrests, acting only after cellphone footage went viral online and drew comparisons to a lynching.
Prosecutors say 25-year-old Arbery was jogging in a residential neighborhood of coastal Georgia when three White men, now charged with murder, chased and fatally shot him on Feb. 23. The men — a former local police detective, his son and a third man who filmed the encounter — said they pursued Arbery in their trucks, suspecting he was behind neighborhood break-ins.
All three have pleaded not guilty, with trial timing unclear amid court system backlogs caused by the coronavirus pandemic. A now-recused prosecutor defended their actions this spring as part of a lawful “citizen’s arrest,” arguing that defendant Travis McMichael had grounds to use deadly force in self-defense. Cellphone footage shows Arbery jogging past McMichael and his father Greg McMichael’s truck, then struggling with Travis before being shot.
Police declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation and saying that the first officers to arrive on the scene were unavailable to speak.
Ben Crump, an attorney representing Arbery’s family, said in a statement that the newly released footage “confirms what we had long suspected” about the third man who filmed, William “Roddie” Bryan.
“The footage clearly documents that Bryan used his truck to block Ahmaud from escaping the McMichaels,” Crump said. “With the murderous teamwork of Bryan and the McMichaels exposed for the world to see, we are confident that this will bring us one step closer to justice for the Arbery family.”
Bryan’s lawyer reiterated that his client was merely a witness to the shooting. And a lawyer for Gregory McMichael said that the body camera footage boosts defendants’ trustworthiness by allowing “us all to witness [them] in the immediate aftermath of a horrific event.”
“This is not a case of white racist vigilantes who, upon seeing a Black man innocently jogging down the street in their mostly white neighborhood, decide to arm themselves, jump in a pickup truck, chase, trap, and then execute him because he’s Black,” attorney Frank Hogue wrote in an email.
Below are excerpts from the body camera footage filed in court. Warning to readers: Many are graphic, showing a man near death. The Post will continue to update this story as we learn more.
Arbery is not given medical attention when officers arrive on the scene
As the first police officer arrives within minutes of the shooting, video shows Arbery lying on his stomach in the middle of the street, covered in blood, his head raised up from the asphalt. A leg can be seen moving, and his head turns. As the police officer approaches, the recording captures what appears to be Arbery’s labored breathing.
The police officer did not provide assistance to Arbery as he lay on the road’s yellow stripe, the video shows.
Two of the men accused in his shooting, Greg McMichael and his son Travis, stood nearby. The men walked away from Arbery briefly, and then Greg McMichael returned to talk to the officer.
“He had no choice,” McMichael says, pointing to his son. He tried to comfort his son, repeating to him that he had no choice.
A second police officer who arrived a few minutes later donned gloves and checked on Arbery, who by then appeared to be dead.
“Got a pulse or anything,” the second police officer asked as he approached Arbery.
“No. He’s about to be 10-7. Man.”
More than half an hour after the shooting, authorities put a sheet over Arbery.
The man who filmed the original video tells officers he was involved in the chase
Bryan has maintained he was just a witness to the shooting. His cellphone video, which eventually went viral, was provided to law enforcement the day Arbery died, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
At a news conference in the spring, Bryan’s attorney said his client has “has committed no crime” and bears no responsibility in Arbery’s death. He would not answer reporters’ questions about Bryan’s alleged attempts to block Arbery.
Bryan detailed his role in the chase to police in February, however.
In the body camera footage, Bryan said he was concerned about break-ins and wanted to help apprehend Arbery, trying to block him with his car. He told police he was on the porch when Arbery ran by, the McMichaels in pursuit. Bryan recalled shouting.
“I hollered at them and said, ‘Y’all got him?’” Bryan said. “And he just kept running.”
His lawyer, Kevin Gough, said in the spring that a polygraph test confirmed Bryan “did not have any conversation with either Gregory or Travis McMichael prior to the shooting.” Gough noted on Wednesday that a conversation “requires two or more participants.”
Bryan told police in February that Arbery “obviously was up to something.”
“I pulled out of my driveway, was going to try to block him,” Bryan said. “But he was going all around. I made a few moves at him, you know. And he didn’t stop.”
“Should we have been chasing him?” Bryan said at one point. “I don’t know.”
The McMichaels are shown deference on the scene
Members of the Glynn County Police Department interviewed the defendants the day of the shooting but did not take them into custody.
“Why would he be in cuffs?” an officer says of Travis McMichael at one point in the body camera footage. In another exchange, an officer says the incident seems to be one of “self-defense.”
“I want it done right, because this doesn’t look good,” Travis McMichael tells police. “I mean, I just shot a man, last thing I ever wanted to do in my life.”
An officer responds, “Trust me, I can truly understand that.”
Two officers appear to recognize the McMichaels. Gregory McMichael had recently retired from working as an investigator with the local district attorney, Jackie Johnson, who initially had jurisdiction over the case before recusing herself.
Officers and the McMichaels discuss whether Arbery was armed
Gregory McMichael told police that he and his son armed themselves before pursuing Arbery, thinking he might have a weapon. But police found Arbery unarmed.
Explaining the blood on his hands in the body cam footage, Gregory McMichael tells police that Arbery went “face down” with his arm tucked beneath him.
“And I didn’t know if he was going for a weapon, or what,” McMichael said. “Cause at that point he was still breathing.” McMichael recounted pulling Arbery’s arm out to check for a weapon and finding none.
‘That’s the only contact I had with him,” McMichael says.
Despite the McMichaels’ stated suspicions about breaks-ins, authorities also reported no stolen goods on Arbery’s body.
Watch the full videos below. Warning: the videos contain graphic content.