One of the white men charged in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia used a racial slur after shooting the unarmed black man and before police arrived at the scene, an investigator for the prosecution in the case told a court hearing on Thursday.
Special Agent Richard Dial of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation quoted William "Roddie" Bryan as saying Travis McMichael uttered the slur after shooting Ahmaud Arbery in February. Bryan and McMichael are both defendants in the case.
"Mr. Bryan said that after the shooting took place before police arrival, while Mr. Arbery was on the ground, that he heard Travis McMichael make the statement: fucking nigger," Dial said in testimony to the court.
The case has triggered a national outcry after cellphone video of the February 23 shooting was leaked on social media. Thursday's hearing in front of a Glynn County judge is being held to determine if there is enough evidence to go to trial.
Protests were expected outside the courthouse after more than a week of demonstrations across the United States over the May 25 death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, also a black American. Four officers have been charged in that case.
As the first witness for the prosecution, Dial described how the three defendants - Bryan, Travis McMichael and his father Gregory McMichael - chased Arbery in pickup trucks and sought to trap him as he was jogging in their neighborhood.
"He just enjoyed running," Dial said of Arbery, adding that friends confirmed he had jogged frequently for exercise.
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Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis, 34, are charged with murder and aggravated assault. Bryan, a neighbor of the McMichaels' who took the cellphone video, was charged with felony murder and attempt to illegally detain and confine.