Racial slurs aired at hate crime trial in Arbery killing

A police officer testified Thursday at the federal hate crimes trial of the three men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery that the 25-year-old man had repeatedly entered a home under construction but didn’t take anything.

Glynn County Police Officer Robert Rash took the stand after an FBI analyst testified Wednesday that two of the defendants frequently used racial slurs in U.S. District Court in the port city of Brunswick. Arbery was fatally shot just outside the city limits nearly two years ago. The white men who pursued him pleaded not guilty to violating his civil rights and targeting him because he was Black.

Rash said the owner of the unfinished home had sent him security camera videos of a young Black man, later identified as Arbery, and a white couple entering the construction site in the months leading up to Arbery’s death. The officer said that if he had made contact with any of them, he would have warned them that the homeowner did not want them on the property and that if they were found there again they would be arrested for trespass.

Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael were aware that a young Black man had been seen in the unfinished home. When Arbery ran by their home, five doors down from that property, on Feb. 23, 2020, they grabbed guns and pursued Arbery in a pickup truck. William “Roddie” Bryan, a neighbor, joined the pursuit and recorded video of Travis McMichael blasting Arbery with a shotgun.

No arrests were made until the graphic video leaked online two months later and Arbery’s killing became part of a larger national reckoning over racial injustice.

All three men were convicted of murder last fall in a Georgia state court and sentenced to life in prison.

FBI analyst Amy Vaughan testified that Travis McMichael repeatedly used the N-word and other racist slurs in text messages and social media in the months and years before the killing. They included posts describing violence against Black people.

Greg McMichael, posted a Facebook meme stating “Irish slaves” in America were mistreated more than any group in the nation’s history, but investigators were unable to download evidence from his encrypted cellphone.

Bryan also used slurs in a number of electronic messages, including several sent on Martin Luther King Jr. Day that mocked the holiday devoted to the civil rights leader.

Defense attorneys denounced their racist messages as offensive and indefensible, but said their deadly pursuit was motivated by an earnest, though erroneous, suspicion that Arbery had committed crimes.

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