Defense attorney Jason Sheffield said that when Travis McMichael and his father got into their truck and chased Arbery on Feb. 23, 2020, they had probable cause that Arbery had committed a felony break-in based on the totality of evidence they had at the time.
The defense attorney cited the increase in crime in the Satilla Shores neighborhood, the confrontation Travis McMichael had with Arbery 12 days earlier at the unfinished home in which he believed Arbery was armed, that he had previously been shown security video of the young Black man in the home on several occasions and that suddenly there was a neighbor pointing in the direction the same man was running after he left the construction site.
“Travis believes he’s committed the offense of burglary,” Sheffield said.
Sheffield said that under the law, the McMichaels had the right to make a citizens’ arrest and to be armed with firearms to make the arrests.
He said Travis McMichael was keeping an eye on Arbery to tell police the man’s whereabouts when Arbery found himself between Bryan’s pickup truck and the McMichaels’ truck.
Sheffield said that as Arbery ran directly at Travis McMichael, he was told the stop and even turned around when Travis McMichael reached into his truck and pulled out his shotgun.
Sheffield said the second time Arbery allegedly charged at Travis McMichael, the defendant raised his weapon as a deterrent and that he was fearful Arbery had a gun and was just hoping he would keep running by.
The defense attorney then told the jury that when Arbery came around the front of Travis McMichael’s truck and physically confronted the armed man and was using his fists as a weapon.
“Fists are that weapon,” Sheffield said, adding that at that time, Travis McMichael fired three shots at Arbery he was afraid Arbery “would beat him with his fists,” take his gun and kill him.
Playing a video Bryan took that partly showed the fatal struggle, Sheffield asked, “Is there any question that Ahmaud Arbery is assaulting Travis McMichael right before that third shot? Not one single bit of question.”
“It is absolutely horrific and tragic that this has happened and this is where the law becomes intertwined with heartache and tragedy,” Sheffield said. “You are allowed to defend yourself, you are allowed to use force that’s likely to cause death or serious bodily injury if you believe it’s necessary.”
He asked the jury to acquit Travis McMichael on all charges.