US officer claims ‘I didn’t murder’ man in fourth trial

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Officer Travis McMichael will face another trial in September

A St Louis, Missouri, police officer who fatally shot a man four years ago on a city street denied in court on Friday that he made comments about committing a second murder after the shooting.

Travis McMichael has already been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and tampering with physical evidence.

He is currently serving a three-year sentence after prosecutors in March 2018 dropped the murder charge.

McMichael is being retried in September, after a year of appeals, because the initial charge was unlawful use of a weapon.

In his third trial, McMichael now faces charges of first-degree involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and unlawful use of a weapon in connection with the death of 37-year-old transient Ahmaud Arbery.

Evidence so far in the trial showed that McMichael had fired a Glock handgun three times from a street in the city’s North Side, striking Mr Arbery once in the chest.

In his second trial on Friday, the officer claimed he had not made comments about committing a second murder after the shooting.

“I don’t think there’s any evidence that supports the statement,” McMichael said in court.

“And I honestly don’t remember saying it.”

McMichael said he had been in a “state of panic” after being hit by Mr Arbery’s car and discovering he had a gun under the backseat, which he had borrowed from a friend.

“At that point I’m not aware of anything to put me on alert, until I see him again after we pulled over in the middle of the street,” he told the jury.

McMichael said he “panicked” during the incident and had been trying to make a U-turn at the intersection when he stopped and turned the lights off and became fearful Mr Arbery would shoot him.

“I stepped on the brake and felt my chest tighten, and then when I looked down I could see I had some light to my vest,” he said.

“I remember firing at the car. I felt the gun fire and I remember Mr Arbery falling down.

“I just put my hands up and ran. I honestly just ran as fast as I could.”

Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker asked McMichael how he could remember firing a gun when he had already shot Mr Arbery, and he replied that he “honestly didn’t have time” to write down anything.

“I honestly had no time to write anything down and I’m pretty sure he knew that,” he said.

In fact, Mr McMichael recorded a police interview in the hours after the shooting in which he tells another officer that he had previously used to kill a suspect.

“I used to kill somebody earlier in my career,” he said in the 2012 interview.

“I did the best I could to kill him but I missed,” he said, adding “I don’t remember him looking like a human being.”

The jury also heard that McMichael had five legally owned guns in his possession in the two years before Mr Arbery’s death.

Despite McMichael’s account that he found himself in a “state of panic” and was “hyperventilating” when he fired, prosecutors told the jury that McMichael was once a considered an “exemplary” officer.

He had been put on limited duty after the killing, but reassigned to desk duty soon after.

The trial in St Louis is the third to be held for McMichael, who had initially been convicted in 2014 and 2016.

The 2014 conviction was overturned by the state’s top court on grounds that the defence had been deficient in its cross-examination of a key witness.

Subscribe to the BBC World Service on iPlayer, or on the BBC iPlayer app

Leave a Comment