Police bodycam footage at Ahmaud Arbery showing defendants Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael, who was armed, hunting for Ahmaud Arbery at a partly-constructed house 12 days before he was shot and killed is played for jury
Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and their neighbor William Bryan Jr. have all pled not guilty to charges of murder, aggravated assault and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment
Gregory McMichael, 65; his son Travis McMichael, 35; and their neighbor William ‘Roddie’ Bryan, 52, are on trial for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery
Glynn County police officer Robert Rash testified Friday as the trial of three white Georgia men charged with Arbery’s death entered its sixth day
Officer Rash had responded to a call at a home under construction in the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, Georgia, the night of February 11, 2020
Jurors were shown bodycam footage of Gregory and Travis McMichael searching for Arbery after spotting him at the house
Travis McMichael had chased Arbery – although his identity was not known at the time – after seeing him at the property, the jury heard
He then went back to get his phone and pistol before returning to the house with his father
Gregory is heard in footage telling police: ‘Travis just walked down there,’ referring to the back of the property. He added: ‘He’s armed by the way’
Rash, with his gun drawn, can be seen on the video going into the house to start searching after back-up officers had arrived
Police bodycam footage of Gregory and an armed Travis McMichael hunting for Ahmaud Arbery 12 days before the black jogger was killed was introduced into evidence in their murder trial Friday.
The night time video shows the father and son vigilantes at the partly-constructed house of neighbor Larry English on February 11, 2020 after Travis, 35, had made a breathless six-minute 911 call saying he had confronted a black male at the home.
The jury viewed a 24-minute video clip as Glynn County police officer Robert Rash, who had responded to the call in the predominantly white Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, Georgia, took the witness stand.
At one point in the video Gregory, 65, tells the cop, ‘Travis just walked down there’, referring to the back of the property. ‘He’s armed by the way,’ he adds.
Prosecutors are seeking to discredit the defense’s claims that the McMichaels were trying to make a citizen’s arrest on Arbery under a now-repealed Georgia law.
The law requires there to be reasonable belief that someone is fleeing from a serious felony crime they just committed.
Travis had chased the stranger [Ahmaud Arbery], after seeing him at the property, the jury heard.
He then went back to get his phone and pistol before returning to the house with his father, the court was told
The pair had been at the home when Rash arrived to investigate and other neighbors quickly followed.
Rash, with his gun drawn, can be seen on the video going into the house to start searching after back-up officers had arrived.
Arbery was not found at the house, with the searchers speculating he had vanished out the back.
Rash told the court he had previously spoken to both McMichaels about a black male being seen at the property on October 25, 2019 and showed them a screenshot of video of Arbery there.
Rash, also linked up McMichael with English because he believed the ex-cop’s expertise might be useful if the black male returned and an experienced witness was needed, the court heard.
On the Rash was called to respond, Travis McMichael panting heavily, had told the 911 operator he had ‘caught a guy running into a house being built’ the jury heard earlier this week.
‘Black male, red shirt. He is in the house.’ He also said the man reached into his pocket and ‘could be armed’.
Rash today said the dispatcher told him there was a burglary in progress when he was called to investigate and he was running ‘lights and sirens’ as he approached Satilla Drive.
‘I was the first officer and on my arrival Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael were on the scene. I stood by for other officers to get there before proceeding to check the property for the unidentified male. I believe they (the McMichaels) told dispatch about having guns, but I didn’t see them brandishing guns.’
Neighbor Perez is seen in a blue shirt on the beginning of the bodycam shining a flashlight as he walks to the side of the property. Rash enters with his pistol in his outstretched arms and with his own flashlight illuminating his way.
The officer shouts Glynn County Police as he enters and searches through the internal timber uprights that form the uncompleted walls of the house. He admitted under cross examination that his heart was pounding when he made the entry.
After Arbery is nowhere to be seen, Rash moves outside. Speaking with the other officer on radio, he says: ‘The neighbor come by and saw the flashlight, somebody in here. Rash is heard saying: ‘We don’t see him back there unless he jumped the fence.’ At that point Greg McMichael is heard saying: ‘Travis just walked down there, down to my back yard and to check back this way. He’s armed by the way.’
Rash: ‘So Travis actually saw him.’
Greg McMichael: ‘Yeah he said he turned around and put the lights on him as he hauled a** inside the house.’
Rash: ‘This guy, he’s always on foot, nobody in the neighborhood knows who he is. We can’t identify him. I’ve been about every house door to door trying to ID. He’s been on their video, they have video over here, we’ve caught him… we’ve caught him on several video cameras. But we just can’t find where he’s…’
Rash then calls English to look back at his latest camera footage to compare with previous occasions. English confirms it is the same person from previous videos.
Travis McMichael, wearing a white baseball cap, then returns. Rash downs him a video of a previous visit by Arbery and he responds: ‘Same kid. That’s him. I didn’t see the tattoos..’
One of the other neighbors who can be seen on the footage is Matt Albenze, who gave evidence earlier this week. He was the person who first spotted Arbery in the same house on February 23, which eventually led to the deadly chase by the McMichaels in their pick-up truck.
Under cross examination, Rash agrees he did not object to Travis having a gun, of his father Greg if he had one. But he insisted he did not plan to deputize them in the search for Arbery.
He said he was looking for Arbery for possible trespass, not burglary – and it would be up to English to decide if the young black man was prosecuted if he was found. Rash also confirmed Arbery had taken nothing from the English property – and the homeowner had not reported any thefts to police ‘to my knowledge’.
At the Start of proceedings, defense lawyer Kevin Gough apologized for his explosive remarks in his bid to ban civil rights campaigner Al Sharpton from the court with the words ‘we don’t want any more black pastors’.
Although he did insist he would clarify his intentions on Monday. He told the judge: ‘I will let the court know that if my statements yesterday were overly broad, I will follow up with a more specific motion on Monday putting those concerns in the proper context.
‘And my apologies to anyone who might have inadvertently been offended.’
The latest testimony came after another dramatic day in court – and some racially-charged controversy out of earshot of the nearly all-white jury listening to a case in a predominantly black city.
On Thursday defense lawyer Kevin Gough made explosive comments when he appealed to the judge to have veteran civil rights campaigner Rev Al Sharpton banned from the court, claiming high profile African-Americans might intimidate the jury.
He even made the opposite comparison for a black jury of having people dressed as Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Colonel Sanders ‘in white masks’ to try to ram home his point.
Gough, who represents William ‘Roddie’ Bryan, made his plea the day after Sharpton and leading civil rights lawyer Ben Crump sat with close Arbery family in court.
He told the judge before the jury arrived for the afternoon session: ‘If we’re going to start a precedent starting yesterday where we’re going to bring high-profile members of the African-American community into the courtroom to sit with the family during the trial in the presence of the jury.. I believe intimidating, that’s an attempt to pressure or influence.
He added: ‘There’s only so many pastors they can have. If their pastor is Al Sharpton right now that’s fine. But that’s it. ‘We don’t want any more black pastors in here.
‘I think people can understand my concern about bringing people in who don’t have any ties to this case apart from political interests. We want to keep politics out of this case. So I am asking the court to take appropriate steps to make sure the gallery isn’t being utilized for a purpose that could be viewed as improper.
‘If a bunch of folks came in here dressed at Colonel Sanders with white masks sitting in the back…’ But he didn’t finish his sentence before Judge Timothy Walmsley cut him off.
The judge dismissed the bid, saying: ‘I am not going to blanketly exclude members of the public from this courtroom.’ Referring to Sharpton’s visit, he added: ‘I did not hear from anyone there was any distraction whatsoever. From what I’ve here is that nobody was even aware that he (Sharpton) was in here’.
Defense Attorney Kevin Gough wants Rev. Al Sharpton banned from court
Sharpton on Wednesday attended the trial with Arbery’s family and participated in a press conference slamming the mostly-white makeup of the jury
Judge Walmsley has already made his views plain on the fact that only one of the 12 jurors are black while the rest all white.
Black people make up nearly 55 per cent of Brunswick’s 16,000 population and 27 per cent of Glynn County.
The panel was finally chosen after two and a half weeks of wrangling, with the defense accused of disproportionately striking qualified black jurors.
‘This court has found that there appears to be intentional discrimination,’ the judge said, while allowing the case to go forward.
Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper-Jones denounced Gough’s argument for a ban on prominent African-Americans in a passionate and dignified rebuttal.
Speaking outside the Glynn County Superior courthouse at the end of the day, she dismissed the idea that jurors would be influenced by the alleged intimidation.
‘I don’t think that anything can sway the jury,’ she said. ‘I think if the jury takes the evidence that is presented that we will get justice for Ahmaud.
‘For everyone that played a part in the killing of Ahmaud, they get sentenced to jail forever.’
The mom also referenced the lengthy video testimony of Larry English, in whose partly-constructed home Arbery was filmed on five occasions by security cameras tripped by motion sensors.
Four of these were at night – the fifth being during the day of February 23 last year moments before he ran down the street chased by the McMichaels who hemmed in with their truck, initiated contact and ultimately shot him to death at the scene
Construction boss English, 51 – who lived 90 miles away in Douglas, Georgia and was building the ‘dream’ home himself on weekends – called 911 when Arbery roamed around the house on the night time visits.
But the court heard other people had entered the property, including a white couple and some children.
Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper-Jones denounced Gough’s argument for a ban on prominent African-Americans in the court. Cooper-Jones alleged Larry English did not have a problem with others going on to his waterfront construction site, only her son.
She said: ‘It was just a problem when it was Ahmaud. Ahmaud was the one paid most attention to. They didn’t have problems with other people on the property, only Ahmaud.’
Defense attorneys are arguing their clients tried to make a lawful citizens arrest of Arbery who they suspected of burglary after they and other neighbors became concerned about trespassers on English’s property.
English said in his testimony that he’d told neighbors he had had items stolen. But he admitted later in the deposition that he could not confirm they were taken from the construction site or a different location – and did not subsequently correct this information with the neighbors.
This led to them to continue to believe English’s home was a burglary target, possibly by a then unidentified black man.
Jurors were shown the footage of Arbery’s five visits during the four-hour recorded deposition by English, who was building a ‘dream second home’ two houses away from the McMichaels.
He confirmed he never saw Arbery steal anything from the property and agreed that there was no evidence Arbery was drunk.
The property owner said he had installed about eight security cameras at the site in 2019 after reports of people entering. Images were relayed to English’s cell phone after the motion sensors tripped.
Arbery was first seen at the property on October 25, 2019 before visiting again on November 18, December 17, and on February 11, 2020.
A 45-second clip from October 25 shows him wandering around near the back of the house at night.
Dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, he strolled around the rear of the waterfront property and is last seen heading on to a metal boat ramp. There is a boat nearby and a tool box, but he does not take anything.
Prosecutor Paul Camarillo, who conducted the deposition, played a recording of the 911 call English placed after he became aware of a possible trespasser.
‘I have a house under construction… I got a camera system there. I got a trespasser there. He’s a colored guy, tattooed down both arms. And he’s just kind of wandering around,’ says English.
‘Send someone out for me please. He’s got curly messed up hair. He’s maybe drunk or on drugs.’ Arbery was identified in the deposition by Camarillo.
English agreed that there was no evidence Arbery was drunk and that he could have been feeling his way through the dark.
But Arbery was not the only nocturnal visitor to the house, the court was shown. On November 17, a white couple was caught on English’s cameras approaching the front of the home, although there was no footage of them inside. The property owner called 911.
In none of the videos is Arbery seen taking anything or interfering with anything.
English told the court he did not believe anything was stolen during the young black man’s visits.
In the November 18 footage, Arbery is seen walking around the garage section of the home, the same place he was spotted in the December 17 video. The house did not have any panels for walls, just upright timbers.
In the December 17 video, is also seen heading out of the front, strolling on to the patch of grass near the road and then running off in shorts and a t-shirt.
In the February 11 footage he again just wanders around inside the house framework. The jury saw him on the day he was killed in much clearer images.
Arbery walks in, wearing a white t-shirt, gray looking shorts and with a green bandana around his neck.
There is a white truck in a driveway and Arbery is seen walking up to the front of the property and past a security camera on the outside of the building.
Internal cameras then pick him up strolling around inside in an area English identified to the jury as his RV garage. He then goes into the car garage.
English told the jury he bought the house site as a vacant lot four or five years ago to build a ‘dream home’ because he has a terminal illness.
He kept a camper there for when he stayed and the site was full of tools and building materials plus a boat. None of this was disturbed by Arbery.
Mark McGuire, a lawyer assisting Cooper-Jones, said of the English testimony and related videos after they were shown: ‘All that it revealed was that Ahmaud had been on that property and never committed a crime.
‘He had never destroyed anything, never taken anything or done anything to justify any of the brutal response that they saw that occurred on February 23.’