(CNN) — New details of the final moments of Ahmaud Arbery’s life emerged Thursday during preliminary hearings — including the report that the Georgia man was struck by a pickup truck shortly before he was fatally shot.
Richard Dial, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent, outlined the events that led to Arbery’s death on February 23 and told the court that the three men charged in his murder engaged in an elaborate chase as the 25-year-old jogger repeatedly tried to avoid them.
Before William “Roddy” Bryan began recording the video of the fatal confrontation, he had struck Arbery with his truck, Dial said.
Investigators found a swipe from a palm print on the rear door of Bryan’s truck, cotton fibers near the truck bed that “we attribute to contact with Mr. Arbery” and a dent below the fibers, Dial said.
Though Bryan’s attorney has contested allegations his client took part in the killing, Dial said Bryan first became involved by yelling to the McMichaels, “Do you got him?” when he saw them chasing the jogger. The McMichaels and Bryan have not entered pleas.
After yelling out to the McMichaels about Arbery, Bryan joined the chase. None of the three had called 911 at that point, Dial said.
Bryan tried to block in Arbery as Travis McMichael drove around the block with his father in the bed of the truck.
Bryan “made several statements about trying to block him in and using his vehicle to try to stop him,” Dial said. “His statement was that Mr. Arbery kept jumping out of the way and moving around the bumper and actually running down into the ditch in an attempt to avoid his truck.”
At one point, Arbery was heading out of the Satilla Shores neighborhood where the defendants live, but the McMichaels forced him to turn back into the neighborhood and run past Bryan, the agent said. That is when he struck Arbery, Dial said.
Bryan turned around, and that is where the widely disseminated video of Arbery’s killing begins.
Dial also revealed that Bryan told police Travis McMichael used a racial slur — the “n-word” — over the body of the slain Arbery.
Arbery was African American; the three men charged in his death are white.
Lawyers for the McMichaels opened the proceeding by requesting their clients be physically present in the courtroom, which Glynn County Chief Magistrate Judge Wallace Harrell denied.
The McMichaels, charged with murder and aggravated assault, appeared wearing face masks from the Glynn County Detention Center a few miles away from the courthouse.
Bryan waived his right to appear.
Gov. Brian Kemp has promised a substantial police presence and issued a warning to any “bad actors” seeking to disrupt the proceedings and heretofore peaceful protests in the county.
Though they’re only preliminary hearings, the defense and prosecution are expected to provide a peek into their strategies. Harrell will decide after the hearing if the cases will be sent to superior court for trial.
Prosecutor Jesse Evans, of Cobb County in metro Atlanta, opened saying the evidence would show the McMichaels “chased, hunted down and ultimately executed” Arbery.
The GBI took over the investigation after Glynn County police and two prosecutors declined to press charges.
Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, may call as many as five witnesses Thursday, court documents indicate. He also is expected to raise the issue of bail, though no bail hearing has been set.
Larry English, who owned an under-construction home where Arbery stopped before he was shot, will not testify Thursday, attorney Elizabeth Graddy said. He wasn’t subpoenaed, she said.
Seating is limited due coronavirus concerns, and an overflow room was set up to handle those wishing to watch the proceedings.
Demonstrations are expected. The NAACP has organized a protest for 5:45 p.m. outside the courthouse.
Kemp has warned “bad actors” not to mar what have “been very peaceful gatherings in that community for well over a month now.”
Gregory and Travis McMichael were arrested May 7 in the shooting death in the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, Georgia. The father and son pursued Arbery after suspecting him in a rash of area break-ins, the elder McMichael told police, according to an incident report.
The McMichaels armed themselves and, with Bryan’s help, tried to head off Arbery as he ran through their neighborhood.
As Bryan’s video begins, Arbery is seen trying to avoid the McMichaels’ pickup truck, which is stopped in the road, before abruptly turning toward Travis McMichael in front of the truck.
A shot goes off as they struggle over the gun. The two disappear off the left side of the screen. Gregory McMichael draws a handgun but does not shoot.
A second blow is heard as Arbery and the younger McMichael are off screen. As the men come back into view, the two continue fighting for the shotgun. Arbery appears to throw a punch at Travis McMichael’s head as a third shot is heard.
Arbery steps back as blood appears on his T-shirt under his left rib cage. He stumbles and falls in the middle of the street as Travis McMichael walks away.
The Justice Department has launched a hate crime investigation in the case.
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