WASHINGTON: The white man who killed black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia stood over his body after shooting him and used a racial slur, according to testimony in a court hearing Thursday.
Arbery, 25, was shot on Feb 23 by Travis McMichael, one of three white men who chased him down in pick-up trucks in a residential neighbourhood in the town of Brunswick.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Richard Dial told a preliminary hearing that another of the three men, William Bryan, admitted that McMichael used the epithet.
“Before police arrival, while Mr Arbery was on the ground, he heard Travis McMichael make the statement, ‘F****** n*****,'” Dial told the hearing.
The slur was recounted in questioning under oath by Bryan, who filmed the killing on his cellphone, Dial said.
The account added to evidence to support trying the three men – McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael, and Bryan – for murder, and could support federal hate crimes charges.
Arbery’s case was buried by local police and justice officials – Gregory McMichael was a former investigator for the Brunswick prosecutor – until Bryan’s video of the shooting leaked to the media on May 5.
The case sparked nationwide anger, and was passed on to state investigators.
Bryan’s video shows the McMichaels, both armed, stopped in a truck. As Arbery tried to run around their vehicle, Travis McMichael appears to impede him with a shotgun, and in a scuffle Arbery is shot three times.
The court hearing Thursday was held as protests continued around the nation over the killing of a black man in Minneapolis police custody, which is being charged as murder.
Dial told the hearing that Travis McMichael frequently expressed hate for African Americans and used the N-word epithet on his text communications and social media.
Originally the McMichaels claimed they killed Arbery in self-defence, and local prosecutors had appeared to accept that.
But Dial rejected that claim.
“I don’t think it was self-defence by Mr McMichael. I think it was self-defence by Mr Arbery,” he told the hearing.
“I believe Mr Arbery was being pursued and he ran ’til he couldn’t run anymore.”