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Shotgun Caused Gaping Hole In Ahmaud Arbery's Chest, Fatal Bleeding

Dr. Edmund Donaghue, who did an autopsy on Arbery, and firearms expert Brian Leppard testified at the murder trial Tuesday.
Posted at 3:05 PM, Nov 16, 2021

The shotgun blasts that hit Ahmaud Arbery punched a gaping hole in his chest and unleashed massive bleeding, a medical examiner testified Tuesday as jurors saw autopsy photos that showed Arbery's white T-shirt stained entirely red.

Testifying at the murder trial of the three white men who chased Arbery down, Dr. Edmund Donoghue said Arbery was hit by two of the three shotgun rounds fired at him. He said both gunshots caused such severe bleeding that either blast alone would have killed the 25-year-old Black man.

The first shot at close range tore through an artery in Arbery's right wrist and punched a big hole in the center of his chest, breaking several ribs and causing heavy internal bleeding, said Donoghue, a medical examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The second shot missed entirely, while the third shot fired at point-blank range ripped through a major artery and vein near his left armpit and fractured bones in his shoulder and upper arm.

"Is there anything law enforcement or EMS could have done to save his life at the scene?" prosecutor Linda Dunikoski asked the medical examiner.

"I don't think so. No," Donoghue replied.

Donoghue performed an autopsy on Feb. 24, 2020, the day after Arbery was slain. The jury saw close-up photos of his injuries, which included several large abrasions to Arbery's face from when he fell facedown in the street following the third gunshot. Photos of his clothing showed his T-shirt stained entirely red. Cellphone video of the shooting shows it had been white.

Asked by Dunikoski how Arbery was able to fight back after sustaining such a severe chest wound from the first gunshot, the medical examiner called it a "fight or flight reaction" that raised his heart rate and blood pressure while sending adrenaline coursing through his body. He said ultimately Arbery would have bled to death from the initial chest wound alone.

The testimony came a day after the judge refused to declare a mistrial over defense claims that jurors were tainted when Arbery's mother wept over an evidence photo, which called attention to the presence of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was sitting beside her in the courtroom's public gallery.

Defense attorney Kevin Gough on Monday asked the judge to make the civil rights leader leave to avoid unfairly influencing the jury. Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley refused and described as "reprehensible" Gough's complaints last week that the defense attorney did not "want any more Black pastors coming in here."

Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael armed themselves and pursued Arbery in a pickup truck after spotting him running in their neighborhood. Their neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan joined the chase and took cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery. All three men are charged with murder and other crimes.

The McMichaels told police they chased Arbery suspecting he was a burglar after security cameras recorded him several times inside a home under construction, five houses away. Defense attorneys say the younger McMichael fired his gun in self-defense after Arbery tried to take it from him.

Prosecutors say they chased Arbery for five minutes to keep him from leaving the Satilla Shores subdivision outside the port city of Brunswick. The chase ended when Arbery, trailed by Bryan's truck, tried to run around the McMichaels' truck as it idled in the road ahead. The video shows Travis McMichael confronting Arbery and then shooting him as he throws punches and grapples for the gun.

Robert Rubin, one of Travis McMichael's attorneys, noted that the medical examiner wrote in his report that Arbery died from wounds "sustained during a struggle for a shotgun."

"Were you aware that Mr. Arbery had his hand on the gun?" Rubin asked Donogue, who answered that he was.

Despite the gunshot to his right wrist, Rubin said, "nothing prevented Mr. Arbery from holding the gun with one hand and swinging and punching with the other hand."

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.