Brunswick, GA – Gregory McMichael had discussed the problems at the construction site where Ahmaud Arbery allegedly trespassed multiple times with local law enforcement and volunteered his assistance months before their fatal encounter.
Text messages have been released between Glynn County Police Officer Robert Rash and homeowner Larry English that showed the officer recommended involving McMichael, the Atlanta Journal- Constitution reported.
English is the owner of the under-construction, unoccupied home where Arbery was seen on video trespassing on multiple occasions.
There was a motion-activated security camera that alerted the homeowner anytime somebody entered the unoccupied dwelling, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The first time Arbery was spotted on English’s cameras was in October of 2019.
English contacted the Glynn County police about people trespassing at his construction site and sent them videos for the officers who were going to check out the home, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
After another trespassing incident on Dec. 17, 2019, Officer Rash texted English and suggested he reach out to McMichael for assistance with his security problems.
“Greg is retired Law Enforcement and also a Retired Investigator from the DA’s office,” the officer texted on Dec. 20, 2019. “He said please call him day or night when you get action on your camera.”
Officer Rash provided McMichael’s phone number to English in the text, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
But English said he never contacted McMichael for help and didn’t even remember receiving the text about him from Officer Rash.
In a statement released after Arbery was killed, the homeowner’s attorney said that English had no relationship with McMichael whatsoever, WJXX reported.
Former International Association of Police Chiefs President and LaGrange Police Chief Lou Dekmar said the text messages between the officer and the homeowner were troubling because it appeared that he had encouraged a citizen to call another citizen for help when police should have responded, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“I’m not aware of any accepted policy for referring someone that requires a police response to delegate that response to a former law enforcement officer who happens to live in the neighborhood,” Chief Dekmar said.
He said it also gave the perception that the police department investigating the Arbery shooting had a relationship with the suspects.
“If it’s not a real conflict, it’s certainly a significant perception of one,” the chief said.
S. Lee Merritt, an attorney the Arbery family, has called for “all participating parties” to be arrested, FOX News reported.
“We believe this communication deputized a group of untrained men in the Satilla Shores community to hunt down suspected trespassers, causing the events of Feb. 23, 2020,” Merritt said.
The McMichaels told police afterwards that they thought Arbery was the suspect in several recent burglaries in the neighborhood, so they armed themselves and followed him, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The men jumped in their pickup truck and followed the 25 year old as he jogged through the neighborhood.
A video, filmed by the McMichaels’ friend, Willian Bryan, who was following in another vehicle, showed Arbery running up the middle of the residential road toward a white pickup truck was stopped ahead of him.
The video showed Arbery ran around the truck and a struggle ensued before he reappeared back in front of it again, engaged in a hand-to-hand struggle for Travis McMichael’s shotgun.
Arbery was shot twice in the chest and died at the scene.
McMichael told police that Arbery “began to violently attack” his son and then the two men fought over the shotgun.
No arrests were made for more than two months after the shooting, prompting outrage from Arbery’s family and community.
The first two prosecutors assigned to the case had to recuse themselves because of professional conflicts of interest.
However, before she recused herself, Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson allegedly told police they couldn’t arrest the McMichaels on the night of the shooting.
“The police at the scene went to her, saying they were ready to arrest both of them,” Glynn County Commissioner Allen Booker told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “These were the police at the scene who had done the investigation. She shut them down to protect her friend McMichael.”
Documents obtained by The New York Times revealed that George E. Barnhill, a prosecutor with the Waycross Judicial District who was next assigned to the case, had argued that both McMichaels had acted legally under the Georgia citizen’s arrest and self-defense statutes before he recused himself.
Tom Durden, the third prosecutor assigned to the case, was bombarded with criticism after he said he wanted to convene a grand jury to determine whether the McMichaels should be charged, the Associated Press reported.
But that could not happen for more than a month because the Georgia Supreme Court has prohibited grand juries from meeting until after June 12, The New York Times reported.
Facing intense scrutiny, Durden asked the GBI to assist with the investigation into Arbery’s death, and 48 hours later, both Gregory and Travis McMichael were arrested for murder.
A neighbor later came forward and said that the day that Arbery was fatally shot wasn’t the first encounter the 25 year old had with Gregory and Travis McMichael.
Neighbor Diego Perez, who lives nearby English’s home that is under construction told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the first encounter took place on Feb. 11 after the motion sensors were activated.
Perez said that the security cameras alerted English, who lived two hours away and the homeowner sent the video to him and asked him to check on the property.
So he said he armed himself and set off up the street to English’s house to see what was going on, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Perez said that as he arrived at the house, he spotted Travis McMichael coming from the opposite direction in his truck.
He said Travis McMichael stopped the truck in front of English’s house, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“Travis saw him in the yard and Travis stopped,” Perez said. “He confronted [the man] halfway into the yard. He said [the man] reached for his waistband, and Travis got spooked and went down the road.”
He said Travis McMichael returned a short while later with his father, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Perez said the McMichaels said they had called the Glynn County Police Department before he got to the house.
The neighbor said he checked the home under construction carefully but didn’t see where anything had been taken, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Perez said he had given police a description of the vehicle he thought the trespasser had driven.
“All we knew about him was that he was the guy who kept showing up on our cameras,” he said. “No one knew who it was.”
The next time that Perez saw Arbery, the 25 year old was lying dead on the pavement, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
He said that when he arrived at the shooting scene minutes after Travis McMichael and Arbery fought over the rifle, he immediately recognized the man who was down as the same person who had appeared on the surveillance videos at English’s house two weeks earlier.
Georgia officials have asked for a federal investigation into the handling of Arbery’s case.