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Arbery Murder Defendant Travis McMichael Takes Stand in Own Defense. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired November 17, 2021 - 13:30   ET



JASON SHEFFIELD, TRAVIS MCMICHAEL'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: OK. And other than going out and doing law enforcement type things, did you do any search or rescue type operations as well?


SHEFFIELD: Is that part of the Coast Guard practice that you had in addition to law enforcement and doing mechanic work?

T. MCMICHAEL: Yes, that was it. Yes.

SHEFFIELD: OK. So let me ask you, what are the types of law enforcement things that you did in the Coast Guard?

T. MCMICHAEL: We did -- it was search and rescue. We would go in there and if something would arise to that, you know, if a rescue turned into a BUI, we did an investigation on that.

SHEFFIELD: It may be obvious, but what's a BUI?

T. MCMICHAEL: Boating under the influence. Guys on boats, mainly. We would counter drugs --

SHEFFIELD: What was that?

T. MCMICHAEL: Counter drugs.

SHEFFIELD: Counter drugs, OK.

T. MICHAEL: It was migration or immigration, assists Customs, Drug Enforcement Administration, stuff like that.

SHEFFIELD: I'm sorry, who?

T. MCMICHAEL: Drug Enforcement Administration, Custom and Border Protection.

SHEFFIELD: OK. Did you ever write violations or citations for people?

T. MICHAEL: I did.

SHEFFIELD: Did you ever work with local law enforcement when did you your law enforcement investigations on the water?

T. MCMICHAEL: Yes, several times.

SHEFFIELD: What types of law enforcement agencies would you work with?

T. MCMICHAEL: We would work with local and state law enforcement, either the sheriff's department or -- yes, the sheriff's department were the two stations I was at.

And also state agencies like Florida Wildlife Commission or Georgia Parks of Natural Resources or Mississippi Parks of Natural Resources.

SHEFFIELD: What is a high-interest vessel?

T. MCMICHAEL: A high-interest vessel is a -- it would be like a cruise ship or a vessel with a kind of historic importance. Something that, if somebody wanted to do harm and choose that, they would shoot for that vessel which would make more news.

Then it was also called a HVA, which is a high-value asset, which would also be dangerous cargo.

SHEFFIELD: Did your activities as a Coast Guard officer involve you working with high-interest vessels?


SHEFFIELD: In what way?

T. MCMICHAEL: In security. Making sure that we - we would set up zones and make sure that nobody that's wishing to do harm to it or that would impede its movement would get in the way.

And we would enforce those laws and arrest powers to make sure that we could accomplish that mission.

SHEFFIELD: Do you remember the name of the law enforcement course that you took at the law enforcement academy?

T. MCMICHAEL: Yes, the basic board officer course.

SHEFFIELD: OK. And what essentially did that training authorize you to do?

T. MCMICHAEL: It allows to make -- it's called SEASII.

SHEFFIELD: What is -- how do you break that down, SEASII?

T. MCMICHAEL: It's an acronym. It's SEASII.




T. MCMICHAEL: It's search --


T. MICHAEL: -- and examinations --


T. MICHAEL: -- arrests --


T. MICHAEL: -- seize --


T. MICHAEL: -- inspect and inquire.



SHEFFIELD: All right.

And can you tell us a little about the components of your training that you had under this SEASII course?

T. MCMICHAEL: Yes. So -- I'll give you -- I guess it would be best if I give you the law that --



What is the law, essentially, that authorize you to be a Coast Guard law enforcement search powers?

T. MCMICHAEL: It gave us arrest powers. And everything involved with that was 14 USC 89 Alpha.


T. MCMICHAEL: Which gave Coast Guard officers, petty officers, which I was --

SHEFFIELD: All right.

T. MCMICHAEL: -- warrant officers and reserve of the same on active duty, the right to seize and examine arrests.

SHEFFIELD: So this here is the code section that gave you the authority to do all these things?

T. MCMICHAEL: Yes. And all vessels in U.S. territorial waters, yes, sir.

SHEFFIELD: OK. Did this course have a law component, a legal component?


SHEFFIELD: Did the legal component -- what did the legal component address?

T. MCMICHAEL: The Fourth Amendment.

SHEFFIELD: And search is seizure, does that fall under Fourth Amendment?





SHEFFIELD: OK. And in terms of -- did you also deal with the Fifth Amendment?


SHEFFIELD: Like due process, things of that nature?


SHEFFIELD: OK. Did you learn terms like probable cause or reasonable suspicion?


SHEFFIELD: OK. And what was your training about probable cause?

T. MCMICHAEL: Well, probable cause, definition that we received was a level of suspicion by a reasonable and prudent person.

SHEFFIELD: I'm going to write it down, so hold on.

Level of suspicion by a reasonable and prudent person. OK.

T. MCMICHAEL: Given the overall circumstances.

SHEFFIELD: Given overall circumstances. OK.

T. MCMICHAEL: To believe a crime had been committed.

SHEFFIELD: There's no Spell Check on these things. So I'm not --


SHEFFIELD: OK. Let me go back to a component, perhaps, of training. Did you have a component of your training called use of force?

T. MCMICHAEL: Yes did, yes. SHEFFIELD: Can you tell us what that is?

T. MCMICHAEL: Yes, use of force is the level of force needed to compel compliance in the safest manner. And then we had acronyms and everything for that, too. We had a use of force continuum.

SHEFFIELD: All right, hold on. So use of force. And you said you had a continuum?


SHEFFIELD: What does that mean?

T. MCMICHAEL: It was a -- it's levels one through six.




SHEFFIELD: Two "U's." Really, it has two "U's?" Awesome.

All right. So use of force continuum. What is that?

T. MCMICHAEL: So it was -- there's six levels.


T. MCMICHAEL: And it goes from level one, which is officer presence.

SHEFFIELD: All right.

T. MCMICHAEL: I'll just go through all of them.

SHEFFIELD: OK, what does that mean, officer presence?

T. MCMICHAEL: Officer presence was what we called showing the flag, being throughout having the flag and blue lights. Just like a cop pulling up, you have blue lights, the uniform, his presence, his demeanor, the badge, stuff like that.

And it usually compels. Going through level one, seeing a police officer or seeing somebody that's an authoritative figure, usually, it's the last --

SHEFFIELD: To compel compliance to do what?

T. MCMICHAEL: Whatever is needed or asked from the officer.

SHEFFIELD: Does it include talking?


SHEFFIELD: Or making an arrest?

T. MCMICHAEL: Yes, it can.

SHEFFIELD: All right. What's the next level?

T. MCMICHAEL: Level two is verbal commands.

SHEFFIELD: OK, what does that mean? It sounds pretty obvious, but what does that mean?

T. MCMICHAEL: Yes. It was task direction and consequence.

SHEFFIELD: Task direction and consequence.

So give us just a little bit of a working example of that.

T. MCMICHAEL: So, you're in active duty, you're in a law enforcement function, I would say, Mr. Sheffield, you move to the side for me. If it didn't work to that, move to the side for me or I will have to remove you.


T. MCMICHAEL: If have to go to that, you can --

SHEFFIELD: Is there a physical component of this or you're just talking?

T. MCMICHAEL: No, no. That's just - that's all that's a verbal command.

SHEFFIELD: For the purpose of obtaining what?

T. MICHAEL: Compliance.

SHEFFIELD: OK, so you can do what?

T. MCMICHAEL: So I can do my job safely and effectively.

SHEFFIELD: OK. All right. Is it volume dependent, your voice?

T. MCMICHAEL: Yes. Voice inflection and tone was definitely a key into it.

Being on a boat, shrimp boat or something like that, loud engines and everything, if I have to talk to you, if I try to talk to you like this, you can't hear me, you can get aggravated.

But if I speak louder and my voice inflection is, hey, move over there, you might take it as I'm upset, and this can escalate into something we don't want.

But if I take everything into consideration, hey, can you move over there for me? We use it every day.

SHEFFIELD: You used the word "escalate." Is it your goal to escalates situations?

T. MCMICHAEL: No, absolutely not.


T. MCMICHAEL: Because, once you escalate, you don't know what's going to go up there. We want to keep everybody calm and cool and be able to do whatever tasks is at hand safely and effectively.


SHEFFIELD: All right. What's the next level after verbal command?

T. MCMICHAEL: It's control techniques.

SHEFFIELD: What does that mean?

T. MCMICHAEL: It was anything hands on. We just had a low probability of causing connective tissue damage or injury.

SHEFFIELD: And what's the point of it?

T. MCMICHAEL: If verbal commands didn't work, at that point, like I would have to remove you, it gets to the point that I have to remove you.

I control you where I'll safely get you to point A or point B, or also the application of handcuffs. It's to control you, the subject, without any harm to myself or to you.

SHEFFIELD: OK. What's the next level?

T. MCMICHAEL: A level four was aggressive response techniques.

SHEFFIELD: All right. What does that mean?

T. MCMICHAEL: It's kicks, stuns and punches, and the use of pepper spray.

SHEFFIELD: OK. At what point did something like this become necessary?

T. MCMICHAEL: We had two types of subjects. Level one through three would be -- so you have passive and aggressive. You have passive compliant and passive resister and then active resister and active aggressor.

SHEFFIELD: You're talking about now you or the person you're dealing with?

T. MCMICHAEL: The person that you're dealing with.

SHEFFIELD: Say it again, please. The person you're dealing with you have levels.


SHEFFIELD: And you categorize them as? T. MCMICHAEL: There's passive and aggressive. Broken into level one

and two, level one is passive compliant. Anything I ask you to do, you do it.

SHEFFIELD: That would be me.

T. MCMICHAEL: That would be you.

Then passive resistor would be -- could go into level two, level three. Can you move over there for me? You don't. Can you move over there or I'll have to move you?

After that move, that could be a passive resistor.

SHEFFIELD: Like me with the judge sometimes?



T. MCMICHAEL: And after application of handcuffs, then if I have to put hands on you, it's a passive resistor.


T. MCMICHAEL: Level four, it would be the kicks and punches would be active aggressor at that point.

SHEFFIELD: OK. Someone who is --

T. MCMICHAEL: Actively is trying to cause you harm.

Sherf: OK. What's the next level after four?

T. MCMICHAEL: Intermediate weapons.

SHEFFIELD: OK. What does that mean?

T. MCMICHAEL: With what we carried daily was the expandable baton.

SHEFFIELD: OK. To be used --

T. MCMICHAEL: For level five. If you're coming at me -- if you're trying to harm me, doing kicks and all that, I'll probably use the baton. Hitting certain parts of the body to cause you to stop harming me or others.

SHEFFIELD: And level six?

T. MCMICHAEL: Is deadly force.


Is your -- are you always moving from level one to level six? Is this always moving through that progression?

T. MCMICHAEL: Yes, it's fluid. It's fluid, nonstop. It depends on what you walk into, what occurs there in a situation.

It can go from level one to level six or level one to level four or four back to one. It's just constantly flowing. It depends on the situation and how whoever you're talking to reacts, pretty much.

SHEFFIELD: OK. I want to talk about the physical side of your training and experience that you had with this type of thing. OK?

Before I do that, I want to ask you again about de-escalation. To make sure -- de-escalation. As it relates to that continuum, do you have any goals as it relates to de-escalation, as it relates to this use of force continuum?

T. MCMICHAEL: You want to keep it as minimal as possible. You don't want anything to escalate.


SHEFFIELD: So you want the absence of escalation?

T. MCMICHAEL: That's correct.

SHEFFIELD: OK. Let's talk about, do you -- when you were with the Coast Guard, did you work with a team of others?


SHEFFIELD: OK. And did you and your team ever do training as it related to these types of use of force continuums and search and seizure and arrests?


SHEFFIELD: OK. When would you do this?

T. MCMICHAEL: We had -- it was required - minimally, it was required quarterly, which was four times a year. Yes, four times a year.


T. MCMICHAEL: But we had so many people that didn't make rate, which were E-1s to E-3s before they make rate, would be our boarding team members.

And the training I went to in Charleston, I was also a trainer to trainer. I was authorized to teach other Coast Guardsmen how to assist into boardings.

So we would have new Coast Guards coming to these boats and stations, so we were constantly training. It was probably minimal once a week, sometimes two, three times a week. Sometimes we would dedicate a whole week to training.

SHEFFIELD: All right.

T. MCMICHAEL: And it went from physical levels one through five to six, obviously.

SHEFFIELD: Would you practice level one, officer presence?

T. MCMICHAEL: Yes. Any time that we were on the water was obviously level one.

SHEFFIELD: So I guess my question is, would you practice these various levels?


SHEFFIELD: OK. How would you practice some of these levels that start to get into physicality or higher verbal acuity?

T. MCMICHAEL: In training?


MCMICHAEL: So in training we would -- going into level four or whatever, we would have a thing called Red Man's suit. We would -- Fridays usually we bring everybody together and then we would teach the techniques of the proper way to do it.

To take a baton and hit somebody in the head, that's obviously deadly force. We do not want that to happen if, god forbid, that comes to it.

So we had to teach striking the right portion of the body and how to properly do the stuff. And the best way to do is it to get out there and do it.

So we would do Red Man training, which these guys would exercise this on each other.

Level four, level five, we would do handcuffs. And then the entire time we're also doing level one and level two.

Take, me and you were in a scenario, it depended on, if you're the boarding officer, how you interacted with me would be how I would interact back with you.

If you came in without -- another acronym. The acronym, we would use called LEAPS.


T. MCMICHAEL: It's called listen --

SHEFFIELD: The acronym, how do you spell it?


T. MCMICHAEL: Yes, I know how to spell, yes.




T. MCMICHAEL: That's it.

SHEFFIELD: What's "E?"

T. MCMICHAEL: To empathize.


T. MCMICHAEL: Ask questions.


T. MCMICHAEL: Paraphrase.

SHEFFIELD: All right?

T. MCMICHAEL: And semi-ops.

SHEFFIELD: OK. And you were saying you would use LEAPS in your training?




SHEFFIELD: All right.

T. MCMICHAEL: And that would to it would go to a situation, if you went onto a boat, you might get somebody who is very upset. Instead of saying calm down, I'm here to do this, there's other ways to do it.

Hey, what's going on, what happened? They explain to you what happened. My dog just died. And you go to empathize. Yes, I've had that happen, too. I'm sorry this has happened.

Then it goes into --

SHEFFIELD: You're saying empathize. You just said emphasize. Empathy, is that what you're talking about? You have empathy for someone?


SHEFFIELD: And I wrote down empathize. You said empasize. Maybe it was a slip.

OK. But you're saying you would try to share with them.


SHEFFIELD: OK. T. MCMICHAEL: And then ask questions. You ask what's going on with them. Pretty much de-arming somebody and calming them down, calming them down. You want to always deescalate, keep things from rising.

SHEFFIELD: Can this lead to de-escalation?

T. MCMICHAEL: Yes, absolutely.



Have you ever had to use officer presence on the job?

T. MCMICHAEL: Yes. Every day. Every day I've ever done it.

SHEFFIELD: Did you ever use verbal command on the job?

T. MCMICHAEL: Very much so, yes.

SHEFFIELD: Did you use control techniques on the job?

T. MCMICHAEL: I've had to.

SHEFFIELD: OK. Did you ever have to use one of your aggressive response techniques, using a baton to hit somebody on the meat portion of their body?

T. MCMICHAEL: Never have.

SHEFFIELD: Did you ever have to use intermediate --

T. MCMICHAEL: I did not.

SHEFFIELD: -- or deadly force?


SHEFFIELD: Did you have any training on hand-to-hand combat?


SHEFFIELD: Did you have any training on how to retain your weapon?


SHEFFIELD: Can you talk a little bit about that?

T. MCMICHAEL: So, we carried -- there was regular boardings like an HVA or --


T. MCMICHAEL: High value asset. Which we stayed on the boat. We had automatic weapons for that. We had crew mounted weapons that didn't pertain. For weapons retention, we were trained on the personal defense, which

is a pistol. We carried an M-16 and an 870 Life Shot, which is a small 14-inch barrel shotgun.

SHEFFIELD: OK. And did you -- what was the type of training that you had about weapon retention? What was it that you were training one another to do?

T. MCMICHAEL: Yes, it's how to --

SHEFFIELD: It's kind of obvious but --

T. MCMICHAEL: Yes, it's how to keep your weapon from going into the hands of somebody that's trying to take it from you.

SHEFFIELD: Is this something that you would practice?

T. MCMICHAEL: I was -- yes, absolutely.

SHEFFIELD: OK. What is the concern about not retaining your weapon?

T. MCMICHAEL: That it would -- one, you would not be able to protect yourself in a deadly force situation. And also that somebody taking it away from you would use it on you or others.

SHEFFIELD: Did you have any special training with the shotgun?


SHEFFIELD: Did it include how to retain it?


SHEFFIELD: OK. Did it include how to use it to deescalate a situation?

T. MCMICHAEL: Yes, with any weapon. Yes, it was the same with the other weapons.

SHEFFIELD: Can you explain that? Explain how you use a weapon to deescalate a situation?

T. MCMICHAEL: A situation we consider a level one, which was officers' presence in certain situations. Like if you came on a boat and you had unaccounted for personnel or known safety hazards, which were to have your weapon drawn.

And sometimes a third eye, which was right here or -- it was easily -- it was readily accessible where you didn't have to take it out of the holster.

In that situation, that was still level one. It's officer presence. You see somebody with that weapon, that's officer presence.

Also, if you had to draw your weapon on someone other than that was -- there was a reasonable possibility that use of deadly force may be authorized, which was another key component on that. SHEFFIELD: All right. A reasonable possibility --


SHEFFIELD: -- that deadly force -- what?

T. MCMICHAEL: May be authorized.

SHEFFIELD: OK. And what does that mean to you?

T. MCMICHAEL: Means, from the training we had, that if you go into a situation that you are not aware of, that you don't know if someone's armed or have made threats or made threatening gestures, and you have a weapon, it's obviously holstered.

And they come towards you and make threatening gestures, which is closing the deadly force triangle or the Attack Triangle, then you are authorized to draw that weapon.

SHEFFIELD: All right. What is the Attack Triangle?

T. MCMICHAEL: It's a subject's actions, weapon and opportunity.

SHEFFIELD: OK. Action, weapon --


SHEFFIELD: -- and opportunity.

And how does that work?

T. MCMICHAEL: So, say a scenario where you threaten me -- so, you're threatening me, subject of action. Weapon, what we're taught, everybody has a weapon, hands, fists, or a weapon.

So, in an attack situation, an Attack Triangle, would be you're threatening me, you are close enough to attack, which is the opportunity.

And then obviously you make the threat or you make the gesture that you're going to attack me, throw the fist back, that is, at that point, an attack.

The Attack Triangle is closed, and I could use -- which would be level four or level five in that situation.



T. MCMICHAEL: There's also a deadly force triangle, which is subject's actions --

SHEFFIELD: Yes, go ahead.

T. MCMICHAEL: -- weapon and opportunity. And under weapons, maximal effective range. And if it's readily accessible.

SHEFFIELD: You talk about range. What do you mean by that?

T. MCMICHAEL: If you -- if you have a baseball bat and you're 50 yards away from me, the weapon is no longer -- it doesn't close the triangle because the maximum effect of range is no longer there. You're not going to harm me with that bat at 50 yards.

If you are 50 yards away from me with a -- if I could see a gun on you and you're making the threats, the gestures, then the deadly force triangle is closed.

SHEFFIELD: OK. I asked you earlier if you ever been trained to use a firearm to deescalate a situation. Is that something you have trained to do, to use it to deescalate but not to actually shoot somebody with it?

T. MCMICHAEL: Yes, that was it. Under level one, doing the -- having it -- having it out of holster or having to draw down, if need be, if you thought that deadly force may be authorized.

SHEFFIELD: You say draw down, what do you mean?

T. MCMICHAEL: To actually have it pointed at you or at the subject or anybody that is causing the threat or that may be a threat at that time.

SHEFFIELD: And when you say draw down and point it at somebody, does that mean that you are, in fact, going to pull the trigger?

T. MCMICHAEL: The possibility is there. But obviously you're trying to deescalate the situation, so.

SHEFFIELD: In your experience can pointing a gun at somebody deescalate a situation?



T. MCMICHAEL: If you pull a gun on someone, they realize that this is -- if this threat or if you don't know what's going on in a situation and you pull a weapon on someone, from what I've learned in my training, usually that causes people to back off or to realize what's happening, deal with compliance.

SHEFFIELD: Outside of your Coast Guard life and your Coast Guard work, did you carry firearms?


SHEFFIELD: Did you ever have to use those firearms before for protection?

T. MCMICHAEL: Yes, I have.

SHEFFIELD: All right. Can you tell me about that?



SHEFFIELD: It's relevant because he is carrying a gun in this case. He is carrying a gun, I believe, and the testimony will establish why.

And the fact that he's had experiences with having to do this before informs him and informs the decisions that he makes as a person under the circumstances.

So, the fact that he's been in situations where he's had to use his gun to protect himself before informs his decisions on also February 23rd.

DUNIKOSKI: Relevance to what he did under these circumstances.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're talking about something he was doing in the Coast Guard.

SHEFFIELD: No, I'm talking about him as a private citizen where he's been out with a firearm, carrying a firearm before, where he's had to use it to protect himself.

TIMOTHY WALMSLEY, GEORGIA EASTERN CIRCUIT JUDGE: Could you take a step into the jury room, please?



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Thank you for joining us.

We're, of course, watching the testimony in the Arbery trial here, the three men on trial for killing Ahmaud Arbery. We're taking just a break here as the jury is out of the courtroom.

Let's go to Martin Savidge.

Martin, Travis McMichael, first, is on the stand. Was that something that he was going to testify in his own defense?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No. It was not. And what is surprising here is not only the fact that Travis McMichael takes the stand. He is the very first witness the defense calls after the state has rested.


And of course, he's not just any witness. He is the man who killed Ahmaud Arbery. That's not an allegation on my part. That is not in contest here.