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Thursday, May 16, 2024 | Back issues
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Prosecutor: Shooter in Ahmaud Arbery Slaying Sent Racist Text Messages

One of the three white men charged with murdering Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery exchanged racist text messages and made racist social media posts in the months before Arbery’s death, a Georgia prosecutor revealed during a bond hearing Thursday.

ATLANTA (CN) — One of the three white men charged with murdering Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery exchanged racist text messages and made racist social media posts in the months before Arbery’s death, a Georgia prosecutor revealed during a bond hearing Thursday. 

The messages came to light during arguments in a hearing to grant bond to Travis McMichael and his father, retired police detective Gregory McMichael.  

The McMichaels and another man, William “Roddie” Bryan are charged with malice and felony murder for the Feb. 23 shooting death of 25-year-old Arbery. Bryan, who filmed the encounter on his phone, was denied bond in July.  

The McMichaels were not arrested until May 7, after cellphone video of the shooting recorded by Bryan leaked and went viral. The father and son have pleaded not guilty to the crimes. 

Arbery was jogging in a neighborhood just outside Brunswick, Georgia, when Travis and Gregory McMichael confronted him with guns. The two men chased an unarmed Arbery in a white pick-up truck, claiming later that they thought he had committed a burglary. 

A struggle ensued between Arbery and Travis McMichael, who was carrying a shotgun. Arbery was shot three times and died at the scene. 

The McMichaels attended the seven-hour hearing via video conference, listening as attorneys in the courtroom argued that neither man is a flight risk and denied that racism motivated the shooting. 

Defense attorneys instead pushed the theory that the McMichaels had reason to believe that Arbery could have been responsible for thefts in the area. 

“We have substantial evidence on that particular day Mr. Arbery was not a jogger. He was there for nefarious purposes,” Robert Rubin, an attorney representing Travis McMichael, argued. 

Rubin, however, did not provide evidence demonstrating any wrongdoing by Arbery on the day of the shooting. 

Exhibits entered into evidence during the hearing indicate that the prosecution plans to counter with arguments about the McMichaels’ racial prejudice. 

The exhibits include Facebook posts threatening action over recent crime in the McMichaels’ neighborhood and a racist text message sent by Travis to his best friend Zachary Langford.  

In a text message exchange between Travis and Langford, prosecutor Jesse Evans said Travis wrote a message referring to shooting “a crackhead coon with gold teeth.” 

Langford at first said he did not recall receiving the message. After reviewing a copy of the exchange, he said Travis was “talking about a raccoon.”  

Screenshot of Zacahary Langford testifying at the bond hearing for Travis and Gregory McMichael Thursday.

Evans also said Travis McMichael commented on an October 2019 Facebook photo: “Sayonara, you slanty-eyed fucks.” 

Langford said Travis was a jokester who had at least one Black friend. He also testified that Travis “felt remorse” after the shooting and had some trouble sleeping afterward. 

“He didn’t like what happened,” Langford said. 

Ashley Langford, Zachary Langford’s wife and another close friend of Travis McMichael, said Travis told her he wished the shooting “never happened like that.” She said Travis “prayed for Ahmaud’s mother and his family daily.” 

During a preliminary hearing in the case, GBI special agent Richard Dial testified that Bryan overheard Travis McMichael calling Arbery a “fucking nigger” as he stood over the dying man. 

Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, delivered a victim impact statement urging the judge to deny bond. 

Cooper-Jones said the McMichaels “are as dangerous today as they were on Feb. 23.” 

“No matter how [Ahmaud] maneuvered, no matter how fast he ran, or how quickly he turned, these men refused to let him go home. They should not go home now to prepare for their defense, to enjoy their children and grandchildren and to be embraced by the community,” she said. 

Lee Merritt, an attorney representing Cooper-Jones, told reporters he does not believe bond is “appropriate” in this case. 

Chatham County Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley did not make a decision on the McMichaels’ bond motions Thursday. The proceedings will resume Friday morning. 

Follow @KaylaGoggin_CNS
Categories / Criminal, Law

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