June 4 (UPI) -- A Georgia judge on Thursday advanced the cases against the three defendants charged with murder in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery to trial court.
Magistrate Court Judge Wallace Harrell found there was enough evidence to allow the cases against Travis McMichael, 34, his father Greg McMichael, 64, and William Bryan, 50, to advance following a probable cause hearing featuring testimony from a special prosecutor and the lead investigator.
The McMichaels and their neighbor, Bryan, are each charged with felony murder in the killing of Arbery, who died after he was shot three times on Feb. 23 as he was jogging through a Brunswick neighborhood less than 2 miles from his home.
Special prosecutor Jesse Evans said Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, "was chased, hunted down and ultimately executed" while being boxed in by two pickup trucks driven by the white defendants.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Richard Dial testified that the driver of the first pickup truck, Travis McMichael, got out of the truck and shot Arbery three times with a shotgun.
Dial also testified that Bryan heard Travis McMichael call Arbery a racial slur after firing the fatal shots.
The McMichaels were arrested last month and charged with murder and aggravated assault after video of the shooting was posted online. Bryan, who captured the footage of the confrontation, was also arrested on charges of murder and attempt to commit false imprisonment.
All three were being held without bond at the Glynn County Detention Center.
The elder McMichael told police they pursued Arbery after suspecting he'd committed a series of break-ins in the neighborhood.
His death preceded the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota and the case has been a part of national protests over the past week opposing police brutality.
Crowds of protesters gathered outside of the courthouse chanting "hands up, don't shoot" and "no bond."
Police were on high alert in Brunswick after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp promised he would "do whatever is necessary to keep the peace" amid protests.
District Attorney Joyette Holmes will lead the case, after two previous prosecutors recused themselves due to conflicts of interest. One, George Barnhill, had said the McMichaels were acting in self-defense and advised that no charges be filed against them.
An arrest warrant for Bryan said he attempted to block Arbery with his vehicle and confine and detain him without legal authority.
The Justice Department said last month federal prosecutors are also weighing hate crimes charges in the case.