Judge Denies Bond for Father-and-Son Suspects in the Shooting Death of Ahmaud Arbery

A judge has decided to not grant bond to Gregory and Travis McMichael, two of three suspects facing charges related to the February shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in south Georgia.

The decision came after the father and son appeared via video conference for their bond hearing on Thursday and Friday in Glynn County court.

“I’m relieved they’ll stay behind bars,” Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, told reporters. “Today was a good day.”

Prosecutors had presented “racial” texts between the younger McMichael and a friend, who was pressed in court about electronic messages the suspect allegedly sent that referred to “slant eyed [expletive]” and “shooting a crackhead coon with gold teeth.”

Gregory McMichael (L) and his son Travis McMichael, Glynn County Detention Center in Ga., on May 7, 2020. (Glynn County Detention Center via AP, File)

In testimony Thursday related to Ahmaud Arbery’s killing, prosecutor Jesse Evans asked suspect Travis McMichael’s longtime friend, Zachary Langford, about a comment McMichael had made in an October 2019 Facebook post that read, “ha ha ha ha! Sayonara you slant eyed [expletive].”

Evans also asked Langford about a text exchange last November between the men in which McMichael made a reference to “shooting a crackhead coon with gold teeth and a Hi Point .45.”

Langford said he did not remember either incident, but when shown evidence he had responded to the text, Langford told Evans “he was referring to a raccoon.”

Responding to the claims at the bond hearing for McMichael and his father—which resumed Friday—the defense characterized the text messages as “inappropriate jokes,” and character witnesses described McMichael as a person who got along with everybody and felt remorse for the shooting.

The killing of Arbery sparked outrage across the nation, becoming yet another example of the many perils visited on African Americans engaged in ordinary activities, particularly after a disturbing video of the shooting emerged.

The 25-year-old was out for a jog when McMichael and his father, Gregory McMichael, chased him in their truck and shot him, authorities have said.

Both men have pleaded not guilty to malice and felony murder charges and other counts. William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., who recorded Arbery’s death while driving, has pleaded not guilty to charges of criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment and felony murder. He was denied bond in July.

‘Ahmaud Wasn’t Allowed To Go Home’

Arbery’s mother read an emotional statement in court Thursday during the bond hearing for both McMichaels, who appeared in court in Glynn County, Georgia, via video conference.

“In the name of justice, decency and fairness, please keep these men behind bars until they can answer for what they did,” Cooper-Jones said. “Ahmaud wasn’t allowed to go home. Ahmaud wasn’t even allowed the chance to live.”

Evans, the prosecutor, described as “racial” the social media and text messages between Travis McMichael and Langford.

The McMichaels’ defense teams called witnesses including Gregory McMichael’s wife, Allison McMichael, and other friends willing to contribute to the bond.

How A Jog Ended in Tragedy

Gregory McMichael told police that he thought Arbery, who was out jogging, looked like a person suspected in a series of recent break-ins in the area, according to a police report.

But no string of break-ins was reported in the more than seven weeks before Arbery’s death, and there was only a burglary report after a gun was stolen from an unlocked vehicle in front of the McMichaels’ home, police said.

McMichael also told officers that Arbery and Travis McMichael struggled over his son’s shotgun. He said two shots were fired before Arbery fell to the street, according to a police report.

The third suspect, Bryan, had made a video recording of the fatal shooting that went viral and led first to the McMichaels’ arrests, then his own. Investigators said they believed Bryan used his vehicle to try to “confine and detain” Arbery multiple times in the minutes leading to Arbery’s death, an arrest warrant said.

A Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent had testified that Arbery probably felt trapped and felt he had to fight. Bryan had told investigators he heard Travis McMichael use a racial epithet after fatally shooting Arbery, according to a GBI agent.

Arbery was shot three times, including twice in the chest, according to an autopsy performed by the GBI.

The case stalled for weeks after the shooting as two district attorneys recused themselves, including one who said the actions of the McMichaels were “perfectly legal.”

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