BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Opening statements flew by for the prosecution and part of defense in the trial over Ahmaud Arbery’s killing. While jury selection was a slow process, Day 1 of the trial picked up speed, with the state calling its first witness.
On the day Arbery was killed, Glynn County Officer William Duggan testified he was on the way home from an off-duty job and stopped for lunch when he heard a “shots fired” call over his radio and responded to the nearby location.
The officer, who wore a body camera, described what he saw when he first arrived.
“I did see a Black male laying on the ground in the middle of the roadway. There were a couple of other people walking around. There was a vehicle in the road further back, past the person who was down on the ground,” Duggan said.
Body camera footage was shown in court, but prior to showing the evidence, which gives a clear image of Arbery’s body on the ground, Judge Timothy Walmsley asked anyone who might have a “reaction” to leave the courtroom. Marcus Arbery Sr., Arbery's father, as well as Leigh McMichael, Greg McMichael's wife, and Travis McMichael's mother, left the courtroom.
While watching the footage, Duggan described seeing Travis, off to the side, covered in blood and asked if he was okay.
“It was a quick reply of basically “no I’m not okay, I just *expletive* killed somebody,” Duggan testified of Travis’s response.
Duggan began attending to Arbery and told prosecutor Linda Dunikoski he determined there was “nothing more he could do” for Arbery due to the loss of blood, lack of rise and fall of the chest, and the wound in Arbery’s chest.
One juror shielded herself with a notebook, unable to watch the video. Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, put her head in her hands during the screening of the video and cried at one point.
Cooper-Jones later said she’d avoided the video until now, adding "it was time to see the video to cure my curiosity, it was very heartbreaking but I’ve got past that part.”
After body camera footage was shown, the court watched Duggan’s dashcam video, which showed him arriving on the scene.
After the videos, Duggan testified about his official police report, where he described what Travis told him.
During cross-examination, Travis’s attorney, Jason Sheffield, asked Duggan about his observation of Travis when he arrived.
“One of the things that you observed about him, was that he was very upset,” Sheffield said.
“Yes,” Duggan responded.
Sheffield further asked what Duggan meant when he asked Travis if he was okay.
“What you meant by 'is he okay,' essentially is, because he has blood on him and he’s at the scene of the shooting, you want to know is there a physical problem ongoing at that moment?” Sheffield asked.
“That was the meaning of my question,” Duggan said.
Sheffield followed with, “That was the meaning of your question, but he interpreted that and his response to you was kind of an emotional response by saying ‘no, I just killed someone.’”
Duggan responded, “That’s correct.”
The defense tried to question Duggan about his de-escalation training and his ability to access someone’s mental health on a scene with reference to Travis. The prosecution objected to relevancy, arguing Duggan did not interact with witnesses on the scene. The objection was sustained.
Sheffield transitioned his line of questioning to ask about Duggan’s assessment of people on the scene, asking if Travis was cooperative at the scene.
Duggan said Travis was cooperative before the defense ended its line of questioning.
At the beginning of Duggan’s testimony, the officer said he did not know defendants William R. Bryan or Travis McMichael prior to arriving on the scene but did previously meet defendant Greg McMichael in Duggan’s “capacity as a police officer.” He did not elaborate any further except to say he "knew his (Greg McMichael's) first name."
Duggan’s been with Glynn County Police for 12 years and has 14 years total experience in law enforcement. During testimony, he revealed he has a minimum of 184 hours of medical field training.
The trial continues at 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 8, and is expected to last a month.