The first police officer on the scene of Ahmaud Arbery’s killing testified Monday that one of the three white men on trial on charges of murder and other crimes never told him they were trying to make a citizen’s arrest of Arbery, testimony that appeared to undercut a key element of the defense case.
Ricky Minshew, who was a Glynn County, Georgia, police patrol officer when Arbery was killed Feb. 23, 2020, testified that when he arrived on the scene, he spoke with William “Roddie” Bryan, who told Minshew that he “blocked,” “cornered” and “cut off” Arbery in Satilla Shores, a neighborhood just outside the port city of Brunswick.
Bryan’s neighbors Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael, his son, who are also standing trial, armed themselves and used Travis’ pickup truck to pursue Arbery after they spotted him running in their neighborhood. Bryan joined the chase and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery in the street three times at close range. The three men were charged months later after the video leaked online. The video sparked national outrage; Arbery’s killing has been likened to a modern-day lynching.
Asked by prosecutor Larissa Ollivierre whether Bryan ever told him he was trying to make a citizen’s arrest of Arbery, as defense attorneys have claimed, Minshew responded, “No, ma’am.”
Minshew said Bryan never mentioned that he joined the chase to try to arrest Arbery for loitering, burglary, attempted burglary, aggravated assault or any other crime and that Bryan never told him he saw Arbery with a weapon. Minshew said Bryan did not tell him he had ever told Arbery that he was “under arrest” for anything as he pursued him.
Minshew said Bryan told him at one point: “Should I have been chasing him? I don’t know.”
Attorneys for the McMichaels have said Travis McMichael acted in self-defense when Arbery, 25, a Black man, threw punches and tried to grab his gun.
Defense attorneys have said the men were justified to chase and to try to detain Arbery because he had been recorded by security cameras inside a nearby home under construction and they suspected he was a burglar.
Each defense team is expected to argue that the men were making a citizen’s arrest, which was then permitted under state law.
Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, has not yet delivered an opening statement. He has previously said the citizen’s arrest defense would play a big part in his case.
Minshew told jurors Monday that when he arrived on the scene, about a minute after the gunshots sounded, Arbery “appeared to be deceased.” Arbery was lying facedown in the street with blood pooling around him. The shotgun used to kill Arbery was off to the side in a nearby yard, also covered in blood, Minshew testified. He said that he heard Arbery make a noise he described as a “death rattle” but that he did not try to render medical aid because it would not have been safe. He said he radioed for emergency medical responders.
“Without having any other police units to have my back, there was no way I could switch to do anything medical and still watch after my own safety,” Minshew said.
Minshew testified that Bryan told him that he had “blocked” Arbery with his truck five times. Under cross-examination, Bryan’s attorney questioned Minshew about the number of times Bryan used his truck to block Arbery.
“He did mention on several occasions ‘blocking,’ and one time he said ‘cornering him in,'” Minshew said.
In response to questions from Bryan’s attorney, Minshew testified that Bryan was “cooperative” and was initially considered a witness and that he was allowed to leave the scene.
Glynn County Police Sgt. Sheila Ramos, who took photos and collected evidence from the scene, also testified Monday. She walked the jury through dozens of photos she took of the scene, including one of Arbery’s body lying in the street under a bloodstained covering. Prosecutors also showed jurors close-ups of Arbery’s wounds.
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, stayed in the courtroom as the graphic photos were shown.
She told reporters outside the courthouse that she was confused about why more was not done to help her son.
“I understand he had to go and secure the crime scene, but, at the same time, he had a guy laying in the middle of the road in a pool of blood,” Cooper-Jones said.