Travis McMichael testified he thought his encounter with Ahmaud Arbery was "life or death" but that he wasn't sure whether Arbery was a threat. File Photo courtesy the Glenn County Detention Center | License Photo
Nov. 18 (UPI) -- The Georgia man who shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery last year testified Thursday that he wasn't sure whether Arbery was a threat, despite calling the situation "life or death."
Travis McMichael gave testimony for a second day, mostly under cross-examination by prosecutors, USA Today reported. He described his interaction with Arbery as "life or death," which is why he opened fire on him.
He, his father, Greg McMichael, and William "Roddie" Bryan each face charges of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment for running down Arbery in their trucks, boxing him in and then shooting him to death Feb. 23, 2020. Arbery had been jogging in the Satilla Shores neighborhood near Brunswick, Ga., when the men starting chasing him.
Civil rights activists have decried the shooting as racially motivated, saying Black men such as Arbery aren't safe going for a jog in a residential neighborhood without the threat of violence or suspicion. The McMichaels and Bryan, all of whom are White, said they chased and shot Arbery because they suspected him of theft.
During questioning Thursday, Travis McMichael said he could've stopped following Arbery during the chase, but chose to continue because he wanted to watch Arbery, according to WXIA-TV in Atlanta.
"I could have" let him run, Travis McMichael said, "but I also wanted to make sure that everything was OK down the road and see what's happening."
He said he never saw Arbery brandish a weapon.
"I didn't know if he was a threat or not," he said.
Travis McMichael testified Wednesday that he shot Arbery in self-defense because Arbery attacked him and grabbed his gun, but seemed to contradict that testimony Thursday, saying he couldn't remember if Arbery grabbed his gun.
"So you didn't shoot him because he grabbed the barrel of your shotgun, you shot because he came around that corner and you were right there and you just pulled that trigger immediately?" prosecutor Linda Dunikoski asked.
"I was struck," McMichael said. "We were face to face ... and that's when I shot."
CNN reported that two residents in the neighborhood also faced questioning Thursday, including Lindy Cofer and Cindy Clark.
Judge Timothy Walmsley admonished prosecutors after they asked Cofer, "Do you believe that someone stealing is deserving of the death penalty."
Defense attorneys for Gregory McMichael took issue with the question, calling for a mistrial.
"The court does find that the question that was presented was inflammatory and irrelevant," Walmsley said. "And completely unnecessary, particularly given the witness that was on the stand.
"It has potentially injected into this case issues not appropriate for the jury and which were in fact discussed and brought up pretrial. Counsel should have either known or should have known that this was a question that should not have been asked."
Walmsley instructed the jury to ignore the question.