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Lying on his stomach in a pool of blood, Ahmaud Arbery began emitting “death rattle” sounds, a police officer recalled on the stand Monday at the Georgia trial of three white men charged with his murder.
Former Glynn County officer Ricky Minshew was dispatched to a call of a suspicious person in the Satilla Shores neighborhood in Brunswick on February 23, 2020, on a Sunday afternoon.
Booking photos provided by the Glynn County, Ga., Detention Center, show, from left, Travis McMichael, his father, Gregory McMichael, and William "Roddie" Bryan Jr.
(Glynn County Detention Center via AP, File)
“I heard two loud pop sounds,” Minshew said seconds before he pulled up in his cruiser and stepped out to find Arbery, 25, in the middle of the street.
“I heard agonal breathing, like a death rattle,” said Minshew, who explained that this sound occurs when a person’s brain is no longer getting enough oxygen to survive.
It was the second day of testimony in the murder trial of Greg McMichael, 67, his son Travis McMichael, 35, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, 52.
“He appeared to be unresponsive to his surroundings,” said Minshew who arrived moments after Travis McMichael pumped two bullets into Arbery’s chest. “He had bled out to the point that the blood was exceeding the perimeter of his body.”
Jurors were shown graphic footage from Minshew’s body camera of a mortally wounded Arbery, who was unarmed, sprawled on the ground near a 12-gauge shotgun.
Both McMichaels were distraught and pacing nearby, Minshew told the 12-person panel, which includes one black juror.
An earlier witness Monday, crime scene investigator Sheila Ramos, said one of the shots tore through a nearby window and lodged in the living room wall.
The tragedy unfolded after Greg McMichael spotted Arbery running down the street and suspected that he was a burglar.
He called for his son and the pair, both armed, got into a white F-150 pickup truck, and chased Arbery for four minutes through the neighborhood, prosecutors said. Bryan, who was not armed, joined the chase in his black Chevy Silverado, capturing Arbery’s final moments on his cellphone. After a brief tussle over the shotgun, Travis McMichael blasted Arbery in the chest as close range.
Marcus Arbery, center, father of Ahmaud Arbery, takes his seat during a pretrial motion hearing in the trial of Greg and Travis McMichael and their neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan, at the Glynn County Courthouse, Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, in Brunswick, Ga. The three are charged with the February 2020 slaying of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery.
(AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, Pool)
In opening statements Linda Dunikoski portrayed Arbery as an avid jogger who had given his three pursuers no reason to suspect him of any wrongdoing.
“They assumed that he must have committed some crime that day,” Dunikoski said. “He tried to run around their truck and get away from these strangers, total strangers, who had already told him that they would kill him. And then they killed him.”
Defense lawyers for the men countered that there had been a recent rash of burglaries, and Arbery had been captured on surveillance footage four times “plundering around” an unoccupied, under-construction home. There is no evidence Arbery ever took anything.
Ahmaud Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper-Jones heads into the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga while her attorney attorney Lee Meritt on Monday, Oct. 18, 2021. Jury selection got underway with hundreds of people ordered to report for what could be a long, laborious effort to find jurors to hear the trial of three white men charged with fatally shooting Ahmaud Arbery as he was running in their neighborhood. (AP Photo/Lewis M. Levine)
(AP Photo/Lewis M. Levine)
“It is a horrible, horrible video, and it’s tragic that Ahmaud Arbery lost his life,” said Robert Rubin, the defense attorney for Greg McMichael, during openings. “But at that point, Travis McMichael is acting in self-defense. He did not want to encounter Ahmaud Arbery physically. He was only trying to stop him for the police.” Rubin said that Arbery hit Travis McMichael and tried to grab his shotgun.
Rubin said the men had the right to detain Arbery under an 1863 state law, which was largely repealed with bipartisan support after outrage over the slaying. The law had allowed citizens to make an arrest if they witnessed a crime or had “immediate knowledge” that a crime had occurred.
The defendants weren’t arrested for more than two months until the video was publicly released, sparking a national outcry, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case from the local police.
Arbery had a history of thefts, obstruction, illegal gun possession and entering into homes and businesses, according to the defense.
But Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley ruled that the McMichaels would have known nothing of Arbery’s past when they chose to pursue him and barred jurors from hearing about the alleged prior misconduct, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, remained in the courtroom as the graphic photos and bodycam footage were displayed. The victim’s father, Marcus Arbery Sr., stood up and left.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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