William "Roddie" Bryan told investigators he overheard Travis McMichael use a racial epithet after fatally shooting a black man in Glynn County, Ga., in February, according to court testimony Thursday by a Georgia Bureau of Investigation official.
Bryan told law enforcement officials that McMichael uttered "f****** n*****" after shooting Ahmaud Arbery three times with his Remington 870 shotgun and prior to police arriving on the scene.
Richard Dial, a special agent with GBI and the lead investigator in the case, was asked if there is evidence that McMichael has used the n-word at any other time and he responded, "Yes, sir, many times."
That included in posts on Instagram and in other messages sent from his phone, Dial said.
McMichael, along with his father Gregory McMichael, and Bryan all face murder charges in the death of Arbery who was killed Feb. 23.
Dial explained what investigators believe happened in the moments leading up to Arbery's death.
In vivid detail, he testified that Arbery, who was jogging through the Brunswick, Ga., neighborhood, was pursued and then repeatedly boxed in by the truck that the McMichaels were in and the vehicle driven by Bryan.
Prosecutor Jesse Evans told the court that Arbery "was chased, hunted down and ultimately executed."
The opening testimony was presented to refute statements the McMichaels gave to police that they shot and killed Arbery in self-defense.
At one point attorneys for Travis McMichael asked Dial if he thought their client was trying to protect himself from Arbery, the agent responded, "I don't believe it was self-defense by Mr. McMichael, I believe it was self-defense by Mr. Arbery."
He added: "I believe Mr. Arbery's decision was to just try to get away, and when he felt like he could not escape, he chose to fight."
It also would appear the investigator's testimony counters claims Bryan made through his lawyer that he was not involved in the crime, he was simply a witness who recorded the incident on his cell phone.
Dial said Bryan got involved early in the pursuit after seeing the McMichaels chase Arbery. Dial said Bryan was at his home and yelled to the McMichaels who were in their truck "Do you got him?"
When Bryan didn't get a response, he went into his residence, briefly, then came back and "cranks up his truck with the intention of assisting in the pursuit," Dial said.
The video shows Arbery changing direction multiple times. The McMichaels catch up, drive past him, then stop the vehicle.
Dial said in the video Travis McMichael is holding a firearm when he exits his vehicle. There's a confrontation and a struggle and Arbery is shot twice in the chest and once in the wrist.
The charges against the first two defendants were brought 10 weeks after Arbery's death.
The McMichaels were charged with murder and aggravated assault on May 7, two days after GBI took over the investigation from local authorities.
Bryan, who faces felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment, was charged on May 21.
Both defense lawyers and prosecutors spoke to the extraordinary circumstance in which the hearing was taking place, with many in the courtroom, including Glynn County Magistrate Judge Wallace E. Harrell, wearing masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus.
The hearing was also held as protests over racial injustice are taking place across the country following the death of George Floyd while in police custody last week.