WASHINGTON (AFP) – Three white men were found guilty of murder Wednesday (Nov 24) for shooting dead an African American man after chasing him in their pickup trucks, following a racially-charged trial in the southern US state of Georgia that gripped the nation.
Travis McMichael, who shot Ahmaud Arbery, his father Gregory McMichael, and their neighbour, William “Roddie” Bryan, who took part in the chase, were all found guilty of murder.
A jury in Brunswick, Georgia, deliberated for less than 12 hours before convicting the three men on multiple counts of murder and other charges.
Travis McMichael, 35, Gregory McMichael, 65, a retired police officer, and Bryan, 52, face potential life in prison for the February 2020 shooting of the 25-year-old Arbery.
A crowd gathered outside the Glynn County courthouse erupted in cheers and chanted as the verdict was delivered at the end of the high-profile trial.
“Say his name. Ahmaud Arbery. Say his name. Ahmaud Arbery,” the crowd chanted.
A graphic video of the shooting of the unarmed Arbery went viral on social media and added fuel to last year’s protests against racial injustice sparked by the murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, by a white police officer in Minnesota.
The defendants said they suspected Arbery was a burglar who had been active in their neighbourhood and invoked a since-repealed state law that allows ordinary citizens to make arrests.
But prosecutors said they had no justification for attempting to detain Arbery and never told him they were trying to arrest him as he jogged through their Satilla Shores neighbourhood on a Sunday afternoon.
‘Chose to confront him’
Chief prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said the McMichaels, who were armed with a shotgun and a handgun, and Bryan didn’t see Arbery commit any crime that day but “chose to confront him.”
“He was trying to get away from these strangers who were yelling at him, threatening to kill him,” Dunikoski said. “And then they killed him.” The jury was shown video during the trial of the McMichaels pursuing Arbery in their truck, and Bryan chasing him in his own vehicle while filming the scene on his cell phone.
At one point, Arbery attempts to run around the front of the McMichaels’ stopped truck.
Travis McMichael, who had gotten out of the vehicle, opens fire with a 12-gauge shotgun. A wounded Arbery is seen struggling with McMichael before being killed by another shot.
The guilty verdicts in the Georgia trial came just days after the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse in another closely watched case in the United States.
Rittenhouse, 18, shot dead two men and wounded another during protests and riots against police brutality in Wisconsin last year that followed the police shooting of a Black man.
The teen claimed self-defense and was acquitted of all charges on Friday.
The McMichaels and Bryan are also facing federal hate crimes charges in a case that will go to trial next year.