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At This Hour

Travis McMichael Takes the Stand, Describes Shooting Ahmaud Arbery. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired November 18, 2021 - 11:00   ET



TRAVIS MCMICHAEL, AHMAUD ARBERY SHOOTER: No, I just say that he's running back to that truck. I did not say that he was attacking that vehicle in the statement.

LINDA DUNIKOSKI, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: All right. So let's go ahead and go to when you're parked at Holmes and Satilla.

MCMICHAEL: Yes, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: All right. So at that point -- during what we see here with Mr. Bryan going up and turning around, Mr. Arbery had actually run to your white truck.

MCMICHAEL: Yes, he -- yes, he is -- he has ran to my white truck once already at this point.

DUNIKOSKI: All right. And you ran forward toward him, correct?

MCMICHAEL: When he turned and ran back I went the following (ph) and decided that that's the last thing I needed to do. And I came back. And he ran around the corner and I lost sight of him, yes, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: At that point that he ran to your truck and then ran away from your truck, had his hands down at his side --

MCMICHAEL: He did. Well, he was -- yes, running.

DUNIKOSKI: He was running.

MCMICHAEL: Yes, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: Didn't run to your truck and pull out of weapon.

MCMICHAEL: He ran to the truck but was directly to the truck but didn't -- hadn't pulled out anything, no, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: And so he runs up -- how close did he get to the truck the very first time?

MCMICHAEL: Probably from me to you, at the furthest, I would say. It was close, yes, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: And you got out of your truck? MCMICHAEL: Yes, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: You got out with the shotgun that time?

MCMICHAEL: I did not.

DUNIKOSKI: So you got out of your truck, yelled at him, stop.

MCMICHAEL: As he was getting close to me, yes, I was yelling at him at that point, stop, yes, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: He turned around to run back.


DUNIKOSKI: Didn't threaten you in any way?


DUNIKOSKI: Didn't verbally threaten you, yell at you?

MCMICHAEL: Not verbally, no.

DUNIKOSKI: Didn't swear at you?

MCMICHAEL: Didn't swear.

DUNIKOSKI: Didn't say anything?


DUNIKOSKI: Did not pull out a gun.

MCMICHAEL: He did not pull out a gun.

DUNIKOSKI: Turned around and ran away.

MCMICHAEL: Once he got from me to you, directed to me, once I reached into my truck is when he turned and ran away, yes, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: So at that point you're reaching into your truck and he sees you do this.


DUNIKOSKI: He turns and runs away.

MCMICHAEL: He did. Yes, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: So now we see him running back; you said he ran up around the dogleg, right?

MCMICHAEL: He did, correct.

DUNIKOSKI: And at that point, we see him running back down the dogleg, is that right? MCMICHAEL: Yes, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: So he got back to that blue mailbox and then had to turn around and headed back toward you.

MCMICHAEL: I believe he was past the blue mailbox.

DUNIKOSKI: So he got past the blue mailbox.

MCMICHAEL: Yes. He was completely out of sight.

DUNIKOSKI: But now in the video we can see that he's turned around and he is heading back toward you.

MCMICHAEL: That's correct.

DUNIKOSKI: And at this point he's pinned between the two pickup trucks.

MCMICHAEL: He is between two pickup trucks, yes, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: All right. So we're going to freeze frame it right here. You've raised your shotgun at him at this point.

MCMICHAEL: At that point, I did, yes, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: And he's 30 to 40 yards away from you.

MCMICHAEL: That's what I put on the -- that's what I said in the statement and wrote. I believe, thinking back on it now, I think it was 30 to 40 feet. It was closer than 30 to 40 yards, about 120 feet. He was not that far away from me.

DUNIKOSKI: Right. And at this point right here, hasn't said anything to you.

MCMICHAEL: No. He has not said anything yet, no.

DUNIKOSKI: Hasn't verbally threatened you.

MCMICHAEL: Verbally, no.

DUNIKOSKI: Still running with his hands at his sides.

MCMICHAEL: Directly toward me, yes, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: Hasn't pulled out a gun.

MCMICHAEL: Hasn't seen a weapon yet, no, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: And hasn't shown you a weapon this entire time.

MCMICHAEL: He has not.

DUNIKOSKI: Hasn't said a word the entire time.

MCMICHAEL: Not one time.

DUNIKOSKI: All he's done is run away from you.

MCMICHAEL: Run past me, yes, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: And you pulled out a shotgun and pointed it at him?

MCMICHAEL: Running directly toward me. And this is now the second time on the road, coming directly and then watching how he interacted with the pickup truck, in that general location, when I pulled up the first time, attacking the truck.

And then seeing him interact with the vehicle on Burford, seeing that the police are coming, him turning and running, on top of seeing Mr. Al Benzi (ph) pointing and the whole February 11th episode.


MCMICHAEL: I was under the impression and I was at this point, this guy can be a threat and he is coming directly to me, yes, I pointed the shotgun at him to deter him from coming directly to me, which was effective at that point.

DUNIKOSKI: You're under the impression -- is that right?

You were under the impression, because of all those things that you just mentioned, that, what, that he could be a threat to you?


DUNIKOSKI: Now let's take a look at State's Exhibit 129.

All right.

Your father is in the pickup truck, correct?

MCMICHAEL: Yes, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: And he has his .357 Magnum, correct?

MCMICHAEL: He has it, yes.

DUNIKOSKI: All right. And this is when you finally have given him the phone and said, "Call 9-1-1."

MCMICHAEL: Seconds before this is when I gave him -- when I dialed 9- 1-1 after I realized that I was misunderstood, that he has not called 9-1-1 or had not called 9-1-1 and realized the error in calling and gave my dad the phone, once I saw Mr. Arbery coming back at me this third time, gave it to him, once he was coming around that dogleg, yes, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: And your father had 30 years of law enforcement, is that correct?

MCMICHAEL: I believe so. DUNIKOSKI: All right. So he knows how to take care of himself,

doesn't he?

MCMICHAEL: He knows how.

DUNIKOSKI: He's got a handgun with him, right?


DUNIKOSKI: And he's on higher ground, isn't he?

MCMICHAEL: He -- yes. Yes, I would say higher ground. I would say vulnerable.

DUNIKOSKI: And you never once, anywhere in your police statement, said you were ever worried about your father or him being attacked at all, never said that once in any of your statements.

MCMICHAEL: In the statements, I guess not, no, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: So at this point, you and your dad are both yelling at Mr. Arbery to stop.

MCMICHAEL: I am yelling. I'm sure my dad is but I was not paying attention to what my father was saying.

DUNIKOSKI: All right. So at this point in time, you are right next to your pickup truck, in the doorway, right?

MCMICHAEL: I'm right in the crux of it, yes, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: All right. And Mr. Arbery is moving this way and then he's moving that way, correct?

MCMICHAEL: Yes. Correct.

DUNIKOSKI: And you have now moved yourself out of that crux of the doorway into the roadway, is that right?

MCMICHAEL: Yes, because when I drew down on him and then he -- because he was coming directly toward me, focused in on me, and I drew down on him, he immediately broke his direction and went to the right.

When he went to the right, I came to the left to gain distance. I was thinking that what I would do or anybody else would go across the yard, would run across the yard.

Well, as I was going across, I saw that he turned and started directly toward me on the road again and then turned a third time and then went back to the side of the vehicle.

DUNIKOSKI: So you're --


MCMICHAEL: I was trying to gain -- I was trying to gain distance. DUNIKOSKI: -- gain distance. So you're expecting that he should take

action to get away from you, because you're pointing a shotgun at him.

MCMICHAEL: I was not wanting him to come to charge me, attack me, which I assumed was happening, yes, that's exactly what I was doing.

DUNIKOSKI: So him running down this road, being pursued by Mr. Bryan's truck, was him attacking you.

MCMICHAEL: The last time I saw Mr. Bryan's truck was when I was at a stop just before where I'm at now. And he was attacking -- was all over that truck. And they left. And I was --


MCMICHAEL: -- I never saw that truck turn around. And then Mr. Arbery is coming back to me, yelling at him to stop, directing to me. He wasn't going to the left. He wasn't going to the right. He was coming straight to me that first time.

I was thinking, all right, he's going to try to get in this truck or he's going to try to attack me or my dad or who knows what. He was acting weird. He was acting funny when I was trying to talk to him prior. So I'm on alert.

He turns, runs off, comes back. I don't -- I'm sure I saw Mr. Bryan's truck in this instance but I was focused on what I perceived as a threat. So -- I don't even remember the question now.


DUNIKOSKI: Well, I think the question is you didn't know what he was doing except continuing to run away from Mr. Bryan's truck.

MCMICHAEL: No, I was -- I was -- he was coming toward me.

DUNIKOSKI: But you just said, "who knows what." You didn't know what this guy was going to do, right?

MCMICHAEL: I did not.

DUNIKOSKI: And all he had done so far is run away from you, right?

MCMICHAEL: He has ran past me and ran away and I let him run away, yes. Yes.

DUNIKOSKI: But this time, you're not letting him run away. You're pointing your shotgun at him, correct?

MCMICHAEL: I am not letting him run to me, directly to me.

DUNIKOSKI: And he doesn't.

He comes around there, right?

MCMICHAEL: He did. DUNIKOSKI: Yes. And comes around that corner and you have closed the distance yourself on him, haven't you?

MCMICHAEL: I have gone to the front of my truck. I did not go to the passenger's side of my truck at that time. I was trying to keep an eye on him, to see --- to make sure he didn't try to get in my truck or try to get to my dad or, who knows, go into the passenger side or what.

I was trying to keep an eye on him. And I would think that he's avoiding me, once I pulled -- once I aimed the shotgun at him. He sees me at the front of the truck, then he would not come back around, which I was thinking was more likely was going to happen and then he would continue to go.

DUNIKOSKI: So at this point in time, you could have stepped closer to your pickup truck and had that pickup truck between you and him, correct?

MCMICHAEL: Say that again?

DUNIKOSKI: Sure thing. You have moved out of the road, you've aimed this shotgun at Mr. Arbery.


DUNIKOSKI: Mr. Arbery goes to the passenger side of the truck.


DUNIKOSKI: OK. Your dad is still yelling at him, because we can hear him go, "Stop, goddamn it, stop."



DUNIKOSKI: You could have easily just stepped back to your pickup truck and watched him keep going, right?

MCMICHAEL: I could have. Yes. But I was -- I still didn't know what he would or could have done right there where I couldn't see him. And to get closer to the pickup, to get closer to Dad, get to the truck, if he was going to try to come to the truck, I would be right there.

So I was thinking that he was a threat, that he might go after myself, my father or the truck, I want to be right there to deter him or to be able to handle it, if I needed to.

DUNIKOSKI: So you also could have stepped around the back of the truck and followed him in the path that way.

Is that right?

MCMICHAEL: Yes, but then he would have an open, unrestricted run around the truck and into my open door, into my pickup truck. And -- (CROSSTALK)

DUNIKOSKI: So you're telling this jury that a man who has spent five minutes running away from you, you're now thinking, is somehow going to want to continue to engage with you, someone with a shotgun, and your father, a man who's just said, "Stop or I'll blow your fucking head off," by trying to get in their truck?

MCMICHAEL: That's what it shows, yes, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: He comes around the front of the truck. And you are right there with that shotgun, correct?

MCMICHAEL: I was coming around and then, as soon as I was at the front corner panel, he turned and, yes, we were on each other.

DUNIKOSKI: That's your head right here.

MCMICHAEL: That is my head.

DUNIKOSKI: All right. You heard the medical examiner testify that Mr. Arbery's hand was between him and the shotgun and he was shot here into his torso, correct?

MCMICHAEL: That's the theory, yes, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: That was the medical examiner giving his opinion, correct?

MCMICHAEL: His opinion, I'm sorry, correct.

DUNIKOSKI: OK. And you saw the digital evidence that backed that up with the arterial spurt from his arm before the first two shots, correct?


DUNIKOSKI: All right.


DUNIKOSKI: You testified yesterday that Mr. Arbery grabbed your shotgun.

MCMICHAEL: That's correct.

DUNIKOSKI: All right.

Do you remember Detective Nohilly specifically asking you if he grabbed your shotgun?


DUNIKOSKI: All right.

And you then said -- you want to take a look at it?

MCMICHAEL: On page 30?

On page 31?

DUNIKOSKI: Let me see if I can find it for you, page 44.


DUNIKOSKI: So do you remember describing the first interaction that you had with him when he came around the corner?

MCMICHAEL: Reading it, yes, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: All right. So you told Detective Nohilly that he came up, meaning Mr. Arbery, and "I think that's when he hit me or started striking. He was on me. He had my shirt, you know, or something to that point. I had the gun. I was too close to draw down on him. I did like that, you know, and he's still fighting, fighting, and I was, just, like -- "

And at that time, you're showing Detective Nohilly that you had the gun like this, correct?


DUNIKOSKI: And Detective Nohilly specifically asked you, "Do you remember if he grabbed the shotgun at all?"

And your response was, "I want to say he did but, honestly, I cannot remember. And me -- we were -- me and him were face-to-face the entire time."

Do you remember saying that?

MCMICHAEL: Yes. And I was trying to think of that exact moment, trying to give him his -- like I say, trying to give him as much detail as possible under the stress and of all this going on.

It was obvious that he had the gun, from what I was saying in here -- you rereading that (ph) -- he had the weapon the way that I was describing it. But why I said he did not have the gun at that second, I don't know why. But, yes, I mean, that's what I said. I want to say he did but I honestly cannot remember.

DUNIKOSKI: So you didn't shoot him because he grabbed the barrel of your shotgun. You shot him because he came around that corner and you were right there and you just pulled that trigger immediately.

MCMICHAEL: No. I was struck and he was -- we were face-to-face and being struck and that's when I shot. So he came up, I think is when we were hit, he started striking, he was on me. He had a shirt or, you know, something to that point and I had the gun. And I was too close to draw on him.

DUNIKOSKI: So you're saying that all of that took place; he's got your shirt, he's striking you, you have got the gun up in this thing, you can't draw down on him and it's just -- it's a struggle and he's on you. And you're going back and forth in front of the truck.

Is that what you're saying??



Is that what happened?

MCMICHAEL: It's on the video, yes, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: OK. And he was shot right here in the torso. And it all came up -- all the pellets right back here.


So your gun was parallel to the ground, yes?

MCMICHAEL: Yes. You grab a shotgun and snatch it away, it will straighten a shotgun out, yes, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: All right.

So which one was it?

Was it like this or was it like this?

MCMICHAEL: It was obviously like that with the -- yes, ma'am. It happened so fast and trying to recall and everything, I've obviously missed every minute detail.

DUNIKOSKI: All right. So let's talk about some of the things that you chose not to do with this matter.


You could have made sure that you and your dad called the police from your house at 230 Satilla Drive before you ever got in that pickup truck, correct?

MCMICHAEL: I could have but I was under the impression that he has called the police when we left there.

DUNIKOSKI: And you could have just continued to drive behind Mr. Arbery and not even speak to him or confront him at all.

Isn't that true?

MCMICHAEL: I could have, yes.

DUNIKOSKI: All right. And you could have just let him run away --


DUNIKOSKI: -- when he took off in front of Mr. Bryan's house from the Night Owl video we saw. Could have gone, he's running, we'll just let him go or just drive behind him really slowly, right?

MCMICHAEL: Could have and did after I realized that he was not going to talk to me and turned around and ran away.

DUNIKOSKI: And you could have stayed in your truck over on Holmes Drive, right?

MCMICHAEL: Could have, yes.

DUNIKOSKI: And you could have stayed in your truck until he ran by and then driven away to go ahead and follow him, right?

MCMICHAEL: I could have, yes.

DUNIKOSKI: All right.

Not once during your statement to the police did you say that you and your father were trying to arrest Mr. Arbery, did you?

MCMICHAEL: In the statement?

DUNIKOSKI: Yes, to the police.

MCMICHAEL: No, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: All right. You never told the police that you said to Mr. Arbery, "You're under arrest."


MCMICHAEL: I did not.


In fact, you never did tell Mr. Arbery, "You're under arrest for the crime of ... " -- fill in the blank.

MCMICHAEL: I didn't have time. I was still trying to get him to stop.

DUNIKOSKI: Let's talk a bit about your attitudes towards sort of vigilantism, OK?


DUNIKOSKI: You've posted several times on Facebook some things -- and we talked about one of them in response to Kimbal Starus (ph), where, "It's like you're playing with fire on this side of the neighborhood."

Do you remember posting that?


DUNIKOSKI: All right. And in response to another post about crime on the website, you responded, "Arm up," correct?

MCMICHAEL: Was that the Ballesteros (ph) one? DUNIKOSKI: July 1st, 2019, a post by Lindy Koefer (ph).

Your first response was, "Arm up."

Do you remember that?

Would you like to see it?

MCMICHAEL: Yes, please, I would.

DUNIKOSKI: I think your attorneys (INAUDIBLE).

MCMICHAEL: Probably so.

DUNIKOSKI: All right.

MCMICHAEL: Thank you.

DUNIKOSKI: Does that refresh your recollection that you said, "Arm up?"

MCMICHAEL: Yes, ma'am, it does.

DUNIKOSKI: In addition, back in January of 2019, do you recall having a Facebook conversation with a Lacy Allison Cox?


DUNIKOSKI: All right.

And at that point, do you remember telling her about how she felt, that you need to make examples out of somebody if they steal something?

You said, "That's right. Hope y'all catch the vermin."

MCMICHAEL: That's correct.

DUNIKOSKI: All right. In addition --


DUNIKOSKI: -- she was kind of worried about her father because she said, "We have had a lot of trouble with --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- object to hearsay, your honor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess this is a post connected with the witness?


DUNIKOSKI: I'll ask a better question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, thank you. DUNIKOSKI: Do you remember --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not sure what the context was. So to the extent it may have been hearsay, it's sustained.

DUNIKOSKI: OK. I will rephrase.

Do you remember telling her that -- that your old man is the same as her old man, which is "slap crazy, old as dirt and doesn't care about going to jail"?

Do you remember that?

MCMICHAEL: I don't think I wrote that.


It's on the top of the second page. Take a look at that and see if that refreshes your recollection.

MCMICHAEL: Top of the second?


Does that refresh your recollection about what you agreed with Ms. Cox about?

MCMICHAEL: Yes. I agreed and responded to it, yes, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: All right.

She said, "We've had a lot of trouble with thieves. It just worries me because my daddy is slap old crazy, LOL. He's old as dirt and doesn't care about jail."

And you responded, "That's what this world needs more of. My old man is the same way."

MCMICHAEL: I did say that, yes, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: And then the next line is, you said, "Hell, I'm getting that way."

MCMICHAEL: I did say that.

DUNIKOSKI: She said, "Have to make an example out of somebody."

You said, "That's right. Hope y'all catch the vermin," correct?


DUNIKOSKI: So your attorney has repeatedly stated a bit of a recurring theme here for you, that, when seconds count, the police are minutes away. Did you hear him say that in his response?

MCMICHAEL: I've heard him say it, yes.

DUNIKOSKI: Is that your statement?

MCMICHAEL: It's not.

DUNIKOSKI: Then why is your attorney saying that?

MCMICHAEL: I guess that's what he believes.


That's not what you believe?

MCMICHAEL: No, I can agree with that but I don't think I've said that.

DUNIKOSKI: I'll go ahead and pass the defendant back.



ROBERT RUBIN, TRAVIS MCMICHAEL'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You've been cross- examined a bit about why you were making certain decisions to approach or not Mr. Arbery.

MCMICHAEL: Yes, sir.

RUBIN: Or what you thought about when he was approaching you.

MCMICHAEL: That's correct.

RUBIN: You've been shown your transcript and the statement that you had with Officer Nohilly.

MCMICHAEL: Yes, sir.

RUBIN: Take a look at page 1 -- page 7, line 1.