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During Court Hearing, Details Emerge About Black Jogger's Death

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

A Georgia judge has decided there is enough evidence to try three white men for the murder of a black jogger, Ahmaud Arbery. Lawyers for both sides laid out their cases for a trial that has captured national attention. Out of yesterday's preliminary court hearing came a deeply disturbing account of Arbery's last moments on that suburban street. We have more from Georgia Public Broadcasting's Emily Jones.

EMILY JONES, BYLINE: A couple dozen supporters gathered around as District Attorney Joyette Holmes announced the result of the hearing from the courthouse steps in Brunswick.

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JOYETTE HOLMES: Judge Harrell did find that there was probable cause to bind over the charges of all three defendants for the felony murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

(CHEERING)

JONES: By now, the basic story of Arbery's death is well-known. And video of the shooting has been widely viewed. Two white men, Gregory and Travis McMichael, suspected Arbery of alleged recent break-ins. So they confronted him. And Travis ultimately shot Arbery as he jogged through their neighborhood. But in court, a fuller picture emerged of what allegedly happened that February day.

The sole witness at the hearing was Georgia Bureau of Investigation special agent Richard Dial. According to his testimony, another co-defendant, William "Roddie" Bryan, told police that after the shooting, with Arbery's body sprawled out on the ground, gunman Travis McMichael used an expletive and then the N-word to refer to Arbery. Prosecutor Jesse Evans described the incident bluntly.

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JESSE EVANS: Victim Ahmaud Arbery was chased, hunted down and ultimately executed at the hands of these men.

JONES: Bryan recorded the video of the shooting. And Dial said there's more of that footage that has not been seen publicly. Another new detail from the testimony was how the McMichaels and Bryan pursued Arbery. Dial described them chasing Arbery in their pickup trucks, trying to corral him in the neighborhood. Dial said Arbery made repeated attempts to change direction and avoid them. Dial testified, at one point, Bryan hit Arbery with his truck as he ran.

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RICHARD DIAL: I believe Mr. Arbery was being pursued. And he ran until he couldn’t run anymore. And it was turn his back to a man with a shotgun or fight with his bare hands against a man with a shotgun. And he chose to fight.

JONES: The defense attorney for Travis McMichael argued that when Aubrey chose to fight, his client feared for his life. So Travis acted in self-defense when he fired his shotgun. But that argument did not sway the judge. Outside the courtroom, Bryan's lawyer, Kevin Gough, said he's disappointed but remains confident the case against Bryan won't hold up at trial. In the meantime, he says he'll push for his client to be released on bond.

KEVIN GOUGH: Well, I feel for Roddie. I mean, he needs to go home. We feel that he should be released. And he should be sent home to go on with his life.

JONES: A small group of protesters disagreed, shouting guilty as Gough spoke. The case now moves to superior court. For NPR News, I'm Emily Jones in Brunswick, Ga. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.