Posted on November 18, 2021

Travis McMichael Testifies

Anastasia Katz, American Renaissance, November 18, 2021

Travis McMichael took the stand in his own defense on Wednesday, November 17. It was day nine in the trial, and the prosecution had rested the previous day. Travis McMichael’s defense lawyer, Jason Sheffield, asked about the events that led up to his shooting Ahmaud Arbery on February 23, 2020.

Travis McMichael said that his parents moved into the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, Georgia in 2013, and he moved in with them in September 2018. His two-year-old son spent every other week with him.

He described the neighborhood as quiet, a place with a lot of older, retired people, but also with families with children. There was not much crime in Satilla Shores when he visited his parents there, but after moving in, he heard stories about car break-ins, suspicious people in yards, and a trailer being stolen. Travis’s truck was broken into in 2018, though nothing was stolen. He also had a small car that he drove to work in, and that car was broken into so many times that he began to leave it unlocked, because he got tired of repairing the door handle and glove box.

Travis and his parents talked about the rise of crime in the neighborhood. It became a topic that would come up if he saw a neighbor on the street and started chatting. He recalled that he had talked with his neighbor, Matt Albenze, about this, and another neighbor told him that her handbag was stolen. Travis and his mother both followed the Satilla Shores Neighborhood Watch Facebook page, where neighbors talked about crime. Mrs. McMichael constantly reminded Travis to lock his car and truck.

In the summer of 2019, neighbors began installing security cameras, and people stopped going out at night. Neighbors stopped walking their dogs after dark. Travis noticed police cars patrolling more often. His mother told him accounts she had heard about thefts, and suspicious people “lurking around.”

Travis McMichael was on active duty in the US Coast Guard from March 2007 to July 2016. He took a Basic Boarding Officer Course, which trained him to be a law enforcement officer. He also did search and rescue, and was a mechanic. His law enforcement experience in the Coast Guard included dealing with drunk boat operators, counter-drugs, and customs and immigration issues. He had the authority to write citations, and he sometimes worked with local sheriffs and state agencies.

Travis McMichael (Credit Image: © Glynn County Detention Center/ZUMA Wire)

He took a training program called Search-Examinations-Arrest-Seize-Acquire. He did search and seizure in all types of vessels. He learned search-and-seizure law, due process, and the terms “probable cause” and “reasonable suspicion.”

Travis told the jury that the definition of probable cause is a “level of suspicion by a reasonable and prudent person, given the overall circumstances, to believe a crime has been committed.”

The Coast Guard also gave him use-of-force training, which he recited from memory as Mr. Sheffield wrote these key points for the jury:

  1. Showing one’s person and uniform. Talk.
  2. Verbal commands.
  3. Control techniques, which can cause injury, such as putting on handcuffs.
  4. Aggressive techniques, such as kicks, stuns, punches, and pepper spray.
  5. Intermediate weapons, such as an expandable baton.
  6. Deadly force.

Travis said it’s important to “keep everyone calm and cool” and avoid escalation. He took training four times a year, and he taught other coast guard members. The men would practice on each other, which is known as “red man” training. Travis told Mr. Sheffield that he never needed to use force at levels four through six on the job.

Travis was also trained to deal with upset people using the LEAPS method. (Listen, Empathize, Ask questions, Paraphrase, Summarize). He had hand-to-hand training, which included weapon retention — how to keep your firearm from someone trying to take it. He was trained that if someone took his gun from him, that person could use it on him or others.

As a civilian, Travis owns firearms, and he told the jury he has used his gun for self-defense. In 2008, he went to an ATM to get cash. He saw two young men watching him. He had an Army service pistol and a concealed carry permit. The men told Travis to give them money. He pulled up his shirt and showed his weapon. The men turned and ran.

In 2011, on his way to work, Travis had his car windows down. When he stopped at a red light, a strange man walked up, unlocked his car door, got in the car, and started yelling. Travis pulled his gun and pointed it at the man, and told him to get out. The man did.

In July 2019, Travis’s neighbor, Kim, told him that her purse had been stolen from her car. Not long after, Travis was in his boat on the water and he saw trash and tarps under a bridge. He thought it looked like a homeless camp, and he wondered if his neighbor’s purse was stolen by homeless people. After docking his boat at home, he and his father drove down to the bridge, where they thought the homeless camp was.

They saw a man fishing. He had a machete. For safety, Travis stood between man and his machete while they talked. The man said he did not live there; he lived on a street off of Fancy Bluff Road. He added that the things on the ground were not his. Travis looked around to see if his neighbor’s purse was there, but it wasn’t. He and his father Greg McMichael looked for car and boat parts, because such things had been stolen from neighbors recently. They doubted the man because he looked as though he was living under the bridge. Greg McMichael called the police and Travis told Matt Albenze and other neighbors about the man.

He first heard about problems at the half-built house at 220 Satilla Shores from his mother, who told him that Larry English, the owner of the lot, had equipment stolen from a boat that was in the garage of the house under construction. Travis McMichael had met Larry English, and knew he was doing work on the house himself, and that he stayed on the property in a camper. Travis also heard about the stolen equipment from Mr. Albenze and on the Facebook group.

On Jan 1, 2020, a pistol was stolen from Travis’s truck. His father had moved the truck for him, and when he next used the truck, the door was unlocked and his holster was on the seat. He looked around the house to make sure he hadn’t misplaced the gun. Then, he concluded that the pistol was stolen, so he called the police.

On Feb 11, 2020 at 7:30 p.m, Travis left home to buy gas for the car he drives to work. He saw a black man, whom we now know was Ahmaud Arbery, run across the street and into the yard of Mr. English’s property at 220 Satilla. Arbery went 20 to 30 feet back from the road and was staying in the shadows. “He was, for lack of a better term, lurking. It was creepy. He wasn’t in a run, he was just creeping through the shadows,” Travis told the jury.

Arbery was staying close to the house. Travis backed up his car so the rear lights were pointed at Arbery. Arbery hid behind a tree, then seeming to realize that Travis had spotted him, he hid in the shadows behind a Porta Potty in Mr. English’s front yard. Travis called 911. Here is the transcribed call:

911 Operator: 911, what’s the address of your emergency?

Travis McMichael: Uh, Satilla Drive. 230 Satilla drive.

911 Operator: What’s going on?

Travis McMichael: We got a, we’ve had a string of burglaries in the neighborhood, and I just caught a guy running into a house being built, two houses down from me. When I turned around, he took off running into the house.

911 Operator: OK. What did he look like?

Travis McMichael: Uh, a black male, red shirt, white shorts.

911 Operator: And you said the house was being built?

Travis McMichael: It’s being built. It’s vacant right now.

911 Operator: What’s your name and phone number, Sir?

Travis McMichael: 912 423 1374

911 Operator: All right. Where are you at now?

Travis McMichael: I’m across the street in my truck, watching the house. Watching the house right now.

911 Operator: What kind of truck do you have?

Travis McMichael: Red Ford (unintelligible)

911 Operator: OK. Are you OK?

Travis McMichael: Yeah, he just startled me. When I turned around, when I turned around and saw him, and backed up, he reached into his pocket, and he ran into the house, so I don’t know if he’s armed or not, but he looked like, he was acting like he was. Uh, be mindful of that.

911 Operator: OK. Which pocket did he reach into?

Travis McMichael: Uh, left, I believe.

Travis was breathing hard during the 911 call; Mr. Sheffield asked why. Travis said he was scared. When listening to the call, it sounds like this is what prompted the 911 operator to ask if he was OK.

Mr. Sheffield asked, “What did you think he might be doing in the house that night?

Travis answered, “He was going back and stealing. Breaking in. Burglarizing.”

Travis did not go inside the house to confront Arbery. He said Arbery acted as if he might be armed. A police officer came, and Travis’s father Greg McMichael, and some other neighbors gathered. The officer showed them Mr. English’s security camera footage of Arbery inside the house. Travis said seeing the man walking around inside the house so nonchalantly, was alarming. It didn’t seem normal. It seemed bold. “Never catching the guy, not knowing what he’s doing. It just sets off alarms.” The group was unable to find Aarbery.

Travis later saw Mr. English’s security camera footage of Arbery walking inside the house several times, and he saw a still of Arbery near Mr. English’s dock. Travis began to suspect that Arbery might be responsible for the crime in the neighborhood: his stolen gun and the stolen boat equipment.

On February 23, Travis was in his living room, trying to get his child to take a nap. His father came in from the garage, “moving pretty quick,” which was rare for Greg, because he had had a stroke and hip surgery. He said, “Travis, the guy who’s been breaking in down the road just ran by the house. Something’s happened. Grab your gun.”

Travis assumed it was the same man he saw on February 11. His shotgun was handy, so he grabbed it and went out to the front yard. Looking to his right, he didn’t see anything. Looking to his left, he saw Matt Albenze pointing down the street toward Burford Road. Travis told the jury, “I thought it was reasonable that, OK, there’s something to this. This guy may have just run by. Matt may have just seen him, either caught him breaking in, stealing something, or the guy who owns the property that stays in the camper might be on property and just startled him, God forbid, there may have been an altercation.”

Greg came out and said the guy ran down the road and he pointed in the same direction Mr. Albenze had, telling Travis, “Get in the truck.”

Travis got in and put his shotgun in the crease between the front seats. The muzzle was pointing to the floor; the butt of the gun came about up to his hip when he was seated.

Travis identified a photo of the inside of the truck, and it was shown to the jury. There was a child’s car seat, and Greg stuffed himself uncomfortably into it. Travis began driving, looking for the man who ran by. He said to Greg, “Did you call the cops?”

Greg answered, “Yes, yes.” He was also cussing and muttering about the child seat. At the moment, Travis thought his father had called the police; later, he realized that his father had not really heard him, and had not called.

When he drove onto Burford Road, he saw a black man running, two or three feet in from the edge of the road. Travis tried to get a close look to see if he recognized him. He was not driving fast; he had his foot on the brake. He recognized Arbery’s haircut and realized he was the same man he saw on the night of the 11th. He watched Mr. Arbery’s hands because he didn’t know if he was armed. He pulled up alongside Arbery, so the door to the truck was four or five feet from Arbery, and when he saw him up close, he was 100 percent sure it was the same man he had seen before. Travis said, “Hey, what are you doing? What’s going on?”

Wanda Cooper Jones, Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, was sitting in the courtroom gallery, and she shook her head as Travis told this part of the story.

When Arbery did not answer him, Travis said, “Hey, stop for a minute, stop please, stop.”

Mr. Sheffield asked, “Did you actually use the word “please?”

Travis answered, “I’m sure I did. I’m trying to keep this as non-volatile as possible. I’m not screaming at the guy.”

Miss Jones rolled her eyes.

Mr. Sheffield had Travis direct him where to stand to establish the distance to Arbery. Travis then continued, saying that Arbery did not answer him when he said, “Hey, stop for a minute. Stop, I want to talk to you.”

Arbery kept running. Travis said, “He looks very angry. Mad. It wasn’t what I expected for just coming up and talking to him. It was, clenched teeth. . . . It made me think something’s happened.”

Travis said he asked again, “Hey, will you stop for a second?”

Arbery said nothing and ran back the other way. Travis put the truck in reverse, turned and caught up to him again, asking, “Hey, what’s going on? What’s going on?”

Arbery turned and ran back down Burford Road toward Zellwood.

This last exchange was in front of William “Roddie” Bryan, who was out on his driveway. Travis said he did not know Mr. Bryan, had not been aware he was watching, and did not speak to him.

Mr. Sheffield asked Travis if he backed up his truck in an effort to lock Arbery in, and Travis said no.

Travis put his truck in drive and stayed with Arbery, watching his demeanor, trying to figure out what was happening. He pulled up next to Arbery again, and said, “Hey, I want to talk to you. I want to know what’s going on.”

This time Arbery stopped, and he looked angry, but he still did not say anything.

Travis asked, “What happened down the road? What are you running from? The police are on the way.”

Travis told the jury, “As soon as I said, ‘police,’ he ran straight back down Burford toward Holmes.” This made Travis more suspicious that Arbery had been up to no good.

Mr. Sheffield asked Travis if his gun came up off the seat at any time while he was trying to talk to Arbery. “What is brandished? Was it out the window?”

Travis said, “No.” The shotgun had slid out from between the seats and was on the floor.

Travis stopped the truck, so his father could get out of the uncomfortable child’s car seat and get in the bed of pickup. Travis picked the gun up off the floor, and wedged it between the seats again. Then he noticed a black Chevy pickup. He didn’t see that it had pulled out from a driveway, so he assumed it had entered the neighborhood. Arbery was at the left side of the truck. Travis did not realize this, but this was the truck being driven by a neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, who took the video that has been at the heart of this case.

Travis wondered if the man in the truck was picking Arbery up, or if the person in the truck was involved in what happened down the road and was trying to catch Arbery. “One of my thoughts was that I might hear a gunshot here.” Travis said.

Greg was telling Travis to drive down to where the black truck was; Travis didn’t want to. He told the jury, “Something’s not right. I don’t know what’s going on. The cops are coming. I’m not going to escalate this any further. . . . My goal is to let the police know where he’s at and to watch what’s going on, and see where he’s at and see where he’s going.”

Travis decided to continue to Zellwood. He turned on Zellwood, driving at about 10 miles an hour. He didn’t want to drive fast since his father was in back. He turned on Holmes, because he thought he would have a good view and would be able to tell the police where Arbery went.

He saw Arbery running parallel to the black truck, at the front door panel. “It looked like he was trying to get in the door. . . . My thought was, ‘Why is he attacking a truck? Why is he hitting a truck?’”

Travis’s truck was on the right side of the road, the correct side. The black truck and Arbery were veering into his lane. He could not see the driver of the black truck, and they did not signal to each other or speak to each other. Then Arbery ran along the black truck’s passenger side, and the black truck pulled off and went back into the proper lane.

Travis moved his truck forward toward Satilla Drive and parked at a spot where he could see down three streets. He reasoned that “If the police come . . . I can give them a good description of what’s happening or where they’re at.”

At this point, Travis said to his father, “Where are the cops? Where are the police?”

His father said, “I don’t have a phone.”

Travis realized the police had not been called. As he reached for his phone, he saw Mr. Arbery running towards him. He yelled, “Stop!” when Arbery was 30 yards away.

Arbery came closer and he was not looking left or right. “The best way to describe it is, you got a running back and they’re about to throw a pass, and they’re staged up, they’re kind of on their toes, ready to bolt. He was in that stance,” Travis said.

Travis got out and stood by the door of his truck. He picked up his shotgun. Greg yelled something, and Arbery turned and went in the other direction. Travis thinks Arbery turned back because he saw him reaching into the car.

Travis put the shotgun back, and picked up the phone to call 911, but as soon as he put the phone up to his ear, he saw Arbery running back towards him, so he gave his father the phone. Travis said of Arbery, “His focus is on me.” Travis thought he was going to be attacked.

Mr. Sheffield asked Travis if he could see the black truck at that point; he could not. Travis was asked if there were locations available that Mr. Arbery could run to, and he said there were open yards, and a shallow ditch on the side of the road.

Travis raised his shotgun, because Arbery was “closing in” on him. He wanted to have his gun out in time, just in case Arbery was armed with a gun or knife. He knew from training that he had to have his gun out or an assailant would be able to overtake him quickly. Travis referred to a 21 Foot Rule; it takes 21 feet for someone to react, pull a weapon, and fire.”

He took his shotgun out, and held it at port arms, with the muzzle pointing upwards to the left. Arbery dodged left and right a bit, then committed to one direction, and ran on the passenger side of the truck. Travis was worried about his father, because he lost sight of Arbery, so he couldn’t watch Arbery’s hands to see if he would draw a weapon.

Travis told the jury, “I moved to the front of my truck. . . . I’m thinking, either he’s on my dad at this point, or he’s going to run by, and see that I have a gun in front of my truck, and he’s going to finally turn . . . to go across that yard. He can try to jump in my truck from the passenger side. He can lay down, he can draw a weapon at this point. This is the point that’s critical.”

Travis said he was standing at the front corner of the truck with his gun at port arms when Arbery made contact with him. “He’s on me, I mean, in a flash. Immediately on me. He grabs the shotgun, and I believe I was struck.” At that moment, Travis thought of his two-year-old boy.

Travis continued, “I shot him. . . . He had my gun. He stuck me. It was obvious that he was attacking me, that if he would have got the shotgun from me, then it’s a life or death situation.”

After the first shot, Arbery did not stop. “I know that I got hit,” Travis said. He did a push-pull move he knew from his training, a tactic to keep an assailant from taking one’s gun. When he pulled the gun in towards himself, Arbery hit him. “We were together, we were locked up. He was on that shotgun. . . . I knew that he was on me. I knew that I was losing this. I knew that if I tripped or if he got a lucky strike on my head, I would have lost that grip on the shotgun. . . then I would have been shot. . . . I knew he was overpowering me.”

At the time, he thought he had only fired the gun twice; he learned later that he had fired three times.

“The second shot, I shot again because I was still, I was still fighting. He was all over me. . . and he was not relenting.”

After the third gunshot, Arbery disengaged, then turned and continued down Satilla Drive.

Travis was in shock. He remembered his father coming out of the truck and yelling, “He has his hand under him!”

Travis had described the fight in a cool, military way, but his voice became shaky as he described what happened when the fight was over. “I turned around, we got over there and pulled his hand out from under him, and realized he was deceased. And I looked up and the police are right there.” He went to the side of the road and put his gun down.

“After that it’s a blur,” Travis said, becoming tearful. He sniffled, his nose turned red and he wiped his eyes with a tissue. Greg teared up and wiped his eyes and nose with a tissue, at the same time.

Travis remembered the police giving him his Miranda rights. He agreed to make a statement, but he struggled to explain to the police what had just happened.

“Reading the statements now,” Travis said in court, “I was all over the place . . . It was under stress; it was less than two hours after, after the shooting. I was not in my right mind at that point.”

Mr. Sheffield asked Travis if he coordinated with Roddie Bryan to “box in” Arbery. He said, “I did not.” Travis maintained that he only wanted to stop Arbery and talk to him, and try to keep an eye on him until the police arrived.

Prosecutor Linda Dunikowski, asked only a few questions before court adjourned. She asked if it was true that Travis did not say at any time during the direct examination that he was trying to arrest Ahmaud Arbery. He agreed.

Miss Dunikoski asked, “You didn’t say, ‘Dad, we’re not going to do this. We’re going to call 911’?”

Travis answered that when his father jumped in the truck, he thought 911 had been called.

Miss Dunikoski asked Travis if he had stated on direct that he “was not going to chase or investigate someone who was armed.” He agreed. Miss Dunikoski kept asking questions about this; she thought his actions that day contradicted that statement.

‘I didn’t know if he was armed or not,” Travis said, “I’m just going to look. I wanted to see what’s going on.”

Cross examination continued the next day.