In Arbery case, shooter failed to follow training – instructors – Metro US

In Arbery case, shooter failed to follow training – instructors

Trial over Ahmaud Arbery’s killing in Brunswick, Georgia
Trial over Ahmaud Arbery’s killing in Brunswick, Georgia

(Reuters) – Travis McMichael, a defendant in the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial, says he followed firearms training when he fatally shot the 25-year-old Black man. Many U.S. gun instructors disagree.

McMichael testified last week that he drew on his U.S. Coast Guard training by levelling a shotgun at Arbery to make him “back off.” But gun professionals interviewed by Reuters said he broke a basic tenet: Never point a gun at anyone, let alone shoot them, unless you are in imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death.

“There’s just not enough evidence that these guys had to use deadly force,” said Rodney Smith, CEO and director of training at the Georgia Firearms and Security Training Academy.

McMichael also testified that Arbery never threatened him verbally or brandished a weapon.

McMichael, 35, his father Gregory McMichael, 65, a former police officer and investigator with the local district attorney’s office, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, have pleaded not guilty to charges that include murder, aggravated assault and false imprisonment.

They said they did nothing wrong in jumping into their pickup trucks to chase Arbery, whom they suspected of burglary, as he jogged through their mostly white neighborhood in Georgia. The younger McMichael was the only defendant to take the stand. He testified he fired his pump-action shotgun at close range at Arbery in self defense, saying Arbery had grabbed his gun.

Both the Arbery case, in which the jury was set to begin deliberations on Tuesday, and the Wisconsin murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse that ended Friday with an acquittal, have revolved around armed white men claiming self defense before nearly all-white juries.

Reuters interviewed around a dozen firearm instructors, gun shop owners and arms makers. Some saw parallels between the two.

Michael Cargill said Arbery should be seen as Rittenhouse was – a man in fear of his life.

“Those cases are the same,” said Cargill, 52, owner of the Central Texas Gun Works firing range and gun shop in Austin, Texas. “Kyle Rittenhouse was trying to get away from people that were trying to kill him. And he had a rifle and he used it to defend himself. Ahmaud Arbery was trying to get away from people who were trying to kill him. He didn’t have a gun. He was shot and killed.”

In a trial that divided America, Rittenhouse was charged with murdering two men and wounding another during racial justice protests in the Wisconsin city of Kenosha last year. Rittenhouse testified he had gone to Kenosha to help protect property during the protests. Supporters called him a hero for shootings they saw as justified while opponents said he provoked violence by aiming a rifle at people.

Clifford Wallace, 36, said both cases showed the need for verbal warnings before pointing and discharging firearms.

“I can’t just shoot you because you appear to be a threat, right? It has to be imminent. I have to know that you’re a threat,” said Wallace, owner of firearms training, retail and manufacturing company Democratic Arms in Berrien Springs, Michigan.

Louis Evans, 75, a former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy and owner of Evans Security Training & Range in Compton, California, took issue with the defense argument that gun safety protocols were followed in the shooting of Arbery.

“Everything they did was messed up. People who are not following the rule of law; they violated everything,” Evans said of the McMichaels and Bryan.

Cargill said if Americans supported Rittenhouse, they should support the case against Arbery’s killers.

“Both cases are the same, and if you’re not looking at it in the same way, then you’re racist,” Cargill said.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, N.M.; Editing by Donna Bryson and Cynthia Osterman)

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