Prosecutor reads racist messages by Ahmaud Arbery's killer

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In this image made from video, from left, father and son, Gregory and Travis McMichael, accused in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia on Feb. 2020, listen via closed circuit tv in the Glynn County Detention center in Brunswick, Ga., on Thursday, Nov. 12, as lawyers argue for bond to be set at the Glynn County courthouse. The McMichaels chased and fatally shot Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, after they spotted him running in their neighborhood just outside the port city of Brunswick.(AP Photo/Lewis Levine)

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – The man who fatally shot Ahmaud Arbery had previously used racial slurs in a text message and on social media, a prosecutor said Thursday as a judge weighed whether to grant bond for the defendant and his father.

Travis McMichael and his father, Gregory McMichael, have been jailed since their arrests in May, more than two months after Arbery was slain. The McMichaels, who are white, chased and fatally shot the 25-year-old Black man after they spotted him running in their neighborhood just outside the port city of Brunswick.

Questions about whether racism played a role in the killing sharpened during a previous hearing when an investigator testified that a third defendant, who took cellphone video of the shooting, told authorities he heard Travis McMichael, 34, utter a racial slur after he blasted Arbery three times with a shotgun.

In the courtroom Thursday, Zachary Langford — a friend of Travis McMichael's since boyhood — testified his friend was a jokester who got along with everyone and had at least one Black friend.

Then prosecutor Jesse Evans asked Langford about a text message Travis McMichael had sent him last year that used a slur for Black people when referring to a “crackhead ... with gold teeth."

Langford at first said he didn't recall receiving the message. Then after reviewing a transcript of the exchange, he answered: “He was referring to a raccoon, I believe.”

Evans also cited a photo Langford posted to Facebook last year to which Travis McMichael replied: “Sayonara,” along with an offensive term for Asians followed by an expletive. Langford said he didn't recall that, either.

Defense attorneys for both McMichaels have denied any racist motives in the shooting. Right after the Feb. 23 shooting, Gregory McMichael told police that he and his son armed themselves and got in a pickup truck to pursue Arbery because they suspected he was a burglar.