Owner of construction site speaks out about Arbery case
Thursday, May 14, 2020
For the first time, we're hearing from the owner of the construction site where Ahmaud Arbery is believed to have been seen moments before he was confronted by Gregory and Travis McMichael and then shot dead outside Brunswick.
Surveillance video shows someone who looks like Arbery walking around a home that was being built, looking around and walking away.
The fatal gunshot wounds to Arbery — who has family members and friends in the CSRA and is buried outside Waynesboro — were inflicted during an altercation after he was followed by father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael in their pickup. They have told police they thought he was a burglar. They claim Travis McMichael shot Arbery in self-defense.
The owner of the construction site says he didn't even see the video until after the shooting.
"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," Larry English said.
English says nothing was stolen from the site.
He says he wasn’t even at the site at the time. A neighbor called 911, but he says he had nothing to do with it.
Days before Arbery was fatally shot, neighbors — including one of the suspects — reported an earlier encounter with a person wandering through the open-framed structure.
Although English said nothing was stolen from the construction site in the Satilla Shores subdivision, his attorney said there had been "four or five" instances in which unauthorized people entered the property before Arbery was shot.
"Nothing was ever taken from the English property," attorney J. Elizabeth Graddy said in a statement Wednesday. She added that "Mr. English is deeply distressed by Mr. Arbery's death."
Graddy also shared security camera video from the home site taken Feb. 11, less than two weeks before the shooting, that briefly shows a man walking inside the structure. She said English has been unable to find security video from the prior instances.
Attorneys for Arbery's family have said a man caught on security video from English's home immediately before the shooting Feb. 23 was Arbery and the footage shows he committed no crime. It's unknown whether it's also Arbery in the newly released video taken 11 days earlier.
Travis McMichael called 911 on Feb. 11 to report what he considered to be a suspicious man at the construction site, according to audio obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"I was leaving the neighborhood and I just caught a guy running into a house being built," McMichael said during the 911 call, according to the newspaper. "When I turned around, he took off running into the house."
"We've been having a lot of burglaries and break-ins around here lately," McMichael told the operator.
English lives far from where the home is being built just outside the port city of Brunswick, 70 miles south of Savannah. Graddy said the night of Feb. 11, he received an alert when motion inside the construction site triggered a security camera. English sent a text message to a neighbor, Diego Perez, asking him to check on the house.
According to Graddy, the neighbor soon sent English a text: "The police showed up and we all searched for a good while. I think he got spooked and ran after Travis confronted him. Travis says the guy ran into the house. Let me know if he shows up or if they find him."
Travis McMichael lives near the home English is building. He is charged with felony murder and aggravated assault, accused of firing the three shotgun blasts that struck Arbery at close range. His father, former police officer and district attorney's investigator Gregory McMichael, also has been jailed on the same charges.
Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, has said her son was merely jogging through the subdivision at the time. He lived with his mother roughly 2 miles from the subdivision where he was shot.
More than two months passed before the McMichaels were charged in the case. They were arrested last week soon after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation began looking into the case and cellphone video of Arbery's killing leaked online, causing a national outcry.