Ahmaud Arbery Murder Suspect Had Confrontation With Black Man Days Before Shooting; New Light Shed on Glynn County Police

Gregory McMichael, left, and his son Travis McMichael
Gregory McMichael, left, and his son Travis McMichael
Photo: Glynn County Detention Center via AP

Travis McMichael, one of two men charged with murdering 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery in February, had a confrontation with an unidentified black man at a construction site less than two weeks before the Feb. 23 killing, CNN reports.

Advertisement

The revelation came via Larry English, the owner of the home being built. He spoke to CNN about the incident, and about surveillance footage appearing to show Arbery at the construction site just minutes before he was fatally shot by Travis McMichael and his father, Gregory McMichael.

English’s lawyer, Elizabeth Graddy, told CNN the homeowner received a text from a neighbor who was watching the site for him on Feb. 11. The neighbor told English that a trespasser had been spotted on the property:

“The police showed up and we all searched for a good while. I think he got spooked and ran after Travis confronted him,” the text read. “Travis says they {sic} guy ran into the house.”

Advertisement

A 911 call was also placed that night by a man who identified himself as Travis McMichael. He told the dispatcher he “caught a guy running into a house being built, two houses down from me. When I turned around, he took off running into the house.”

McMichael speculated that the man might be armed because he reached into his pocket; he described the suspected trespasser as a “black male. Red shirt, white shorts.”

Motion-sensor security cameras confirmed there was someone at English’s property on Feb. 11, but English didn’t report the incident to police. The homeowner said he didn’t know if that Feb. 11 confrontation involved Arbery.

In an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, English also addressed widely circulated surveillance footage taken of his home on Feb. 23 that appears to show Arbery pausing at the construction site.

Advertisement

“As far as the video goes, I don’t want it to be put out and misused and misinterpreted for people to think that I had accused Mr. Arbery of stealing or robbery because I never did,” he said, adding that he made no 911 calls on Feb. 23, and nothing was stolen from the house.

Advertisement

As the Arbery case moves to its fourth prosecutor in less than three months, more details are emerging about what was happening in the Brunswick, Ga., community in the weeks before Arbery’s death.

On the Feb. 11 call, Travis McMichael claimed that there had been several break-ins and robberies in the area, a claim that Greg McMichael would repeat after the pair confronted and fatally shot Arbery.

Advertisement

But according to the Glynn County Police Department, only one burglary was reported in the Satilla Shores neighborhood in the two months prior to Arbery’s killing: the McMichaels reported that a 9mm pistol was stolen from Travis McMichael’s unlocked truck on January 1, CNN reports.

But the McMichaels, who were charged with felony murder and aggravated assault last week, are not the only ones under intense scrutiny.

Advertisement

A dispute between the Glynn County Police Department and the Brunswick District Attorney’s Office has become increasingly public. Greg McMichael used to work in both departments.

Advertisement

As NPR reports, the Glynn County Police Department has a “tangled history of corruption and scandals.” Just four days before the Arbery shooting, Glynn County Police Chief John Powell was indicted for perjury and witness tampering.

“We have a history of protecting our own within the legal system. That applies across the board to Glynn County law enforcement, with covering up misdeeds or looking the other way,” Newell Hamilton, Jr., a criminal defense attorney in Glynn County, told NPR.

Advertisement

But as more people—including Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr—are questioning why Glynn County police never arrested the McMichaels, the department is shifting blame to the Brunswick DA’s office.

“I don’t see how they expect the police to go cuff these men up when they have been told directly on Sunday and on Monday by the district attorneys’ offices not to arrest anybody,” Commissioner Peter Murphy told WJXT.

Advertisement

Brunswick DA Jackie Johnson denied the commissioner’s claim, telling radio station WIFO earlier this week that her office never advised the police on whether to make an arrest.

“That’s so far from the truth. It’s just a straight-up lie,” she said. “I think it’s retaliation for me being the whistleblower on their police department multiple times over the last year.”

Advertisement

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, told NPR the police covered up how her son actually died. Cell phone video of Arbery’s killing shows him running through the Satilla Shores neighborhood when he was ambushed by the McMichaels, who had parked their white pickup truck in the middle of the road. Travis McMichael was armed with a shotgun, while Greg McMichael, standing on the bed of the truck, had a handgun.

A struggle ensued between Arbery and Travis, with the latter firing three shots at the unarmed black man.

Advertisement

On the day of his death, police told Cooper Jones that Arbery was involved in a burglary and the homeowner confronted him.

“I didn’t question that at that time because the way that I lived is if authority came and told you anything, you didn’t question that because that was authority,” Cooper Jones said. “They were put in place to be trusted.”

Staff writer, The Root.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

thirdamendmentman
ThirdAmendmentMan

...the McMichaels reported that a 9mm pistol was stolen from Travis McMichael’s unlocked truck on January 1, CNN reports.

Responsible gun ownership there.