BRUNSWICK, Ga. — The first person to take the stand for the defense in the death of Ahmaud Arbery trial Wednesday afternoon was Travis McMichael, the man accused of pulling the trigger in the fatal shooting.
"I want to give my side of the story," McMichael said on the ninth day of testimony in the trial.
Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan are facing charges in Arbery’s death.
On Wednesday morning, it was unclear if the McMichaels or Bryan would take to the stand. Before the jury was brought in, the judge had the three men take an oath, adding that they were not required to provide testimony but would be prepared to if compelled to provide their accounts.
Here are the main takeaways from McMichael’s testimony:
Crime was on the rise in Satilla Shores, he said
While on the stand Travis McMichael described crime in his Brunswick neighborhood. He said since he moved in 2018, he started to increasingly hear of more reports of car break-ins, suspicious people in the neighborhood, and thefts.
“It was little stuff like that but it was continuous,” he said on the stand. “It was rare at first but started building out.”
According to McMichael, neighbors were installing security cameras, staying inside after dark, and were growing more concerned about break-ins.
When the trial began, defense attorneys focused on Arbery allegedly being seen on surveillance videos entering onto the property of an unfinished home a number of times in the months leading up to his death. They've argued the neighborhood was on edge at the time Arbery was seemingly chased down and ultimately killed. There is no evidence Arbery ever took anything or committed any damage at the home, and the owner has said he did not suspect Arbery of taking anything.
He received de-escalation training while serving in the Coast Guard
As Travis McMichael was being questioned by his lawyer Jason Sheffield, he added context to his de-escalation and law enforcement training in the U.S. Coast Guard.
Travis McMichael laid out his credentials, adding he was trained to stop drunk boaters, how to use a firearm and how to have "officer presence" when required. He also highlighted how a situation could escalate to require deadly force, a method he has not ever used himself, he said.
Sheffield took a few moments to question how his client was trained to use a gun.
"Everybody has weapons," he explained. "Hands, fist, weapon."
If at first the subject in question isn't complying with an authority's efforts to collect information and investigate a suspicious situation, the authority could brandish their firearm to help calm the situation, McMichael explained.
"Usually that calls people to back off or realize what's happening," he said.
McMichael also said that he would receive training about four times a year, but more often after he became a trainer himself. As an educator with the agency, he often delivered training multiple times a week.
McMichael has flashed a firearm for protection– twice
Travis McMichael admitted to owning multiple firearms and having a concealed and carry license. He also said he's used his firearms as a layer of protection.
The first time was in 2008 in Mississippi at a bank. He was pulling into the bank to use the ATM when he saw two young men hanging around the bank. As he tried to take money out, they approached him and demanded he hand over cash, according to his testimony.
Travis McMichael said he pulled up his shirt to brandish his firearm. The two men ran away and hopped the fence, according to McMichael. He did not file a police report.
A few years later, he said he was sitting at a red light in his vehicle with the passenger window down. A man used the open window to pop the lock and started yelling at him, according to McMichael's testimony.
"I carry a weapon everywhere," he said.
Travis McMichael grabbed a pistol he had between the seats and pointed it at the man, demanding he leave. The man then ran off, McMichael said. He's not sure if a police report was ever filed, he said during testimony.
McMichael recounts moments during fatal shooting
McMichael's testimony expressed that he felt threatened by Arbery, adding that Arbery ran toward him after he exited the truck.
"When he runs up the right side of the truck, what are you thinking?" Jason Sheffield, his lawyer asked him, referring to the video of Arbery's death.
"This is the point that's critical," he expressed to the jury, adding that he has his shotgun out at this point.
"He turns and he's on me," he said about Arbery. "He grabs the shotgun and I believe I was struck on that first instance that we made contact."
Travis McMichael said that's when he thought of his son, so he fired his gun.
"I shot him (Arbery)," Travis McMichael said tearing up. "He had my gun."
He held back tears as he continued his testimony.
"This is a life or death situation," he said on the stand.