McMichael, one of three defendants charged in the killing, was questioned by defense and prosecution attorneys Wednesday and testified that he acted in self-defense as he and Arbery wrestled over McMichael’s shotgun.
The younger McMichael shot and killed Arbery and it was captured on cell phone video by Bryan. All three defendants have pleaded not guilty.
‘Life or death situation’
He testified the person, whom he later described to police as a Black male, pulled up his shirt and went for his “pocket, waistband area.” Travis McMichael said he assumed the person was armed, so he fled in his vehicle as the person ran to a nearby home under construction.
McMichael testified he told his father what happened, and the two went back to the unfinished home and called authorities. Police never saw or talked to the person Travis McMichael said he saw that night, he testified.
Travis McMichael then testified that he was sitting in his home on the day of the shooting when his father ran inside in a “frantic state” and told his son to get his gun, saying the man from days earlier had “just ran by the house” and “something’s happened.”
“I was under the assumption that it was the same individual that I saw (at the unfinished home) on the 11th,” and he had heard previously that things had been stolen from the site, Travis McMichael testified.
Travis McMichael said he grabbed his shotgun.
As Travis and Gregory McMichael drove and encountered Arbery on February 23, they “identified that yes, this is him,” Travis McMichael testified.
“(We decided) let’s try to hold him for the police to talk to him,” Travis McMichael testified. He said he his father told him he had called 911, and so assumed police were on their way.
“He grabs the shotgun, and I believe I was struck on that first instance that we made contact,” Travis McMichael testified Wednesday.
“I shot him,” Travis McMichael said, head lowered and voice cracking. “He had my gun, he struck me. It was obvious that he was attacking me; that if he would have got the shotgun from me, then it was, this is a life-or-death situation. And I’m gonna have to stop him from doing this, so I shot.”
“I didn’t know where I was at, but I knew that he was on me, I knew that I was losing this,” Travis McMichael said. “I knew that he was overpowering me but I didn’t know which direction or what mechanics he was doing to overpower me.”
Arbery’s family reacts to defendant’s testimony
Speaking from the courthouse steps, Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, said she appreciated McMichael taking the stand because “it gave my family and I some insight on what he was actually thinking.”
“Mr. Travis McMichael killed my son all on assumptions,” she said. “He had no real facts or where Ahmaud was coming from, what Ahmaud had done. He just took actions into his own hands.”
She added, “He didn’t have any facts on hand when he chose to pull the trigger. Not one time, but three times.”
Cooper-Jones was joined by Ahmaud’s father, Marcus Arbery Sr. She said the family was grateful for the support they are getting.
“It’s heart-wrenching. That’s why they need prayers, and they need the pastors’ prayers for them, just so they can try to keep their sanity,” Crump said.
“If this was your child, how would you keep composure after you see these people lynch him and then you see them offer this self-defense and people are actually taking this as if it’s credible?” Crump said.
A rally at the courthouse attended by the Rev. Al Sharpton and other pastors to show support for Arbery’s family is expected Thursday morning, and a march is planned in the afternoon.
Prosecutors contend Bryan struck Arbery with his vehicle when he joined the pursuit.
Arbery had no weapon when he was killed, authorities said.
CNN’s Jason Hanna, Christina Maxouris and Chris Boyette contributed to this report.