Defense rests in Ahmaud Arbery case as hundreds of pastors gathered to support family

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — After another heated day in the trial for the men who shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery, the defense rested their case Thursday.

Prosecutors spent the morning hammering Travis McMichael on inconsistencies between his testimony now and in the hours after he shot and killed Arbery.

Channel 2′s Tony Thomas is in Brunswick and has been covering the trial from the beginning. Thomas said McMichael himself held firm, insisting he only opened fire after the man he was chasing, Arbery, turned on him.

“I was trying to keep the situation calm,” McMichael told the court.

He admitted several times on the witness stand he and his father, Greg McMichael, could have turned around and let Arbery run away that February day.

“Why in the world would Mr. Arbery be a threat to you?” prosecutor Linda Dunikoski asked Travis McMichael.

“There was a possibility that he was armed,” Travis McMichael answered.

Arbery was wearing shorts, a T-shirt and was carrying nothing when he was shot.

But Travis McMichael said they thought he was a thief and wanted to hold him for police.

Travis McMichael said Arbery turned on him during the chase and he shot in self-defense.

“You didn’t shoot at him because he grabbed your gun. You shot as soon as he came around that corner and you were right there, and you just pulled that trigger immediately?” Dunikoski asked Travis McMichael.

“No, I was struck. We were face to face,” Travis McMichael said.

Prosecutors say Travis McMichael, his father, Greg McMichael, and neighbor Roddie Bryan, who recorded the shooting, are guilty of murder after the chase and killing of Arbery.

As prosecutors hammered away at inconsistencies in Travis McMichael’s testimony, he blamed it on the heat of the moment.

“I just killed a man. I had blood on me still. It was the most traumatic event of my life,” Travis McMichael said.

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As the day continued, defense attorneys called several residents of the Satilla Shores neighborhood where the shooting happened.

“Were you at one point a victim of a theft crime?” one defense attorney asked neighbor Brook Perez.

“Yes,” Perez said.

The defense rested their case around 4:15 p.m. Thursday. Thomas learned closing arguments will start on Monday.

As Travis McMichael and others testified inside the courthouse Thursday, outside the courthouse hundreds of pastors from Georgia and across the country descended on Brunswick to support and pray with Arbery’s family.

They also called for justice for Arbery.

“Prayer is needed right now. Division is not needed right now,” DeKalb County social activist Porsche Miller told Channel 2′s Audrey Washington.

Last week, after the Rev. Jesse Jackson stood quietly inside the courtroom, defense attorney Kevin Gough called for mistrial in the case, saying, “We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here.”

So hundreds of Black pastors made it a point to go to Brunswick Thursday morning and afternoon for special prayer.

“It’s a real call of response of civil disobedience. We were told that Black pastors were not wanted, so we did the reverse and came,” said New Missionary Baptist Church’s Dr. Jamal Bryant.

Miller said even though the afternoon march was separate from the prayer gathering, she wanted to the support the pastors and preachers as well.

“Compassion is needed right now. Justice is needed right now. So I’m really glad that all the pastors, clergymen, bishops and even the rabbis, are all coming together for the greater good,” Miller said.