FBI analyst testifies Ahmaud Arbery's murderers regularly used racial slurs, shared racist posts

Travis McMichael.
(Image credit: Stephen B. Morton-Pool/Getty Images)

An FBI intelligence analyst testified Wednesday at the federal hate crimes trial of Ahmaud Arbery's murderers that two of the three men routinely used racial slurs in text and Facebook messages.

Late last year, Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and William "Roddie" Bryan were convicted on state murder charges in the February 2020 death of Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was jogging through a Georgia neighborhood. The McMichaels claimed they believed Arbery was a burglary suspect, and chased him in a truck. Travis McMichael fatally shot Arbery as they struggled over McMichael's shotgun. Bryan was behind them in another vehicle, and recorded some of the incident on his cellphone.

The McMichaels and Bryan are white, and in this federal trial — unlike the state one — prosecutors aim to prove that the three men attacked Arbery due to racial bias. During her testimony Wednesday, FBI intelligence analyst Amy Vaughan went over more than 24 text and Facebook conversations Travis McMichael and Bryan had with others, conducted in the months and years prior to Arbery's killing. She said the FBI was unable to gain access to Gregory McMichael's phone because it was encrypted.

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Vaughan testified that Travis McMichael used the N-word to describe Black people in text and Facebook conversations, and once shared a video showing a young Black child dancing with a white supremacist song playing over it, The Guardian reports. He also stated multiple times he was glad he wasn't a Black person, using a racial slur, and talked about violence against Black people.

Additional evidence was presented that showed Bryan used the N-word, including while describing how upset he was over his daughter dating a Black man, and mocked Martin Luther King Jr. Day, while Gregory McMichael posted a meme on Facebook in 2016 saying white Irish slaves were "treated worse than any race in the U.S. but that the Irish were not asking for handouts," The Guardian reports.

Attorneys for the defendants did not dispute any of the messages. Arbery's father, Marcus Arbery, told reporters outside the court he wasn't really "shocked" by the text messages and social media posts, but didn't realize "all that hate was in those three men."

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for TheWeek.com. Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and EW.com, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.