BRUNSWICK, Ga. — The Georgia Department of Investigation confirmed Saturday, May 9 that agents are reviewing additional video as they work to piece together the minutes before the deadly shooting of Ahmaud Arbery.
“We are indeed reviewing additional video footage and photographs as part of the active case,” the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which was asked to help investigate the case, said in a statement Saturday. “It is important to note that this footage was reviewed at the beginning of the GBI investigation and before the arrests of [suspects] Gregory and Travis McMichael.”
Newly released CCTV footage from Feb. 23 shows a man dressed in clothes matching those of Ahmaud Arbery on a private construction site approximately 240 yards from the scene of Arbery’s fatal shooting on that day.
The property belongs to Larry English, who said that CCTV had captured a trespasser on the property a number of times before Feb. 23.
“After the first time that video captured someone in the house, Mr. English contacted local law enforcement on a non-emergency number and made them aware of the unauthorized entry onto his property,” said English’s attorney Elizabeth Graddy in a statement. “He never used the word ‘burglary.’ He never shared any of this information with the McMichaels, whom he did not even know. Nothing was ever stolen from the house – which, again, was a construction site.”
The statement went on to say that “even if there had been a robbery,” the English family would not have wanted a “vigilante response.” The statement also says that English was not the person who contacted authorities on Feb. 23.
Merritt Law Firm, the firm representing Arbery’s family, said it had reviewed the video.
“Our office has reviewed the surveillance video which appears to show a person, believed to be Ahmaud Arbery, entering a property under construction,” it said in a statement. “Ahmaud did not take anything from the construction site. He did not cause any damage to the property.”
The firm said the video “confirms that Mr. Arbery’s murder was not justified and the actions of the men who pursued him and ambushed him were unjustified.”
The GBI arrested Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34, for the death of Arbery. Both were charged with murder and aggravated assault. They were booked into the Glynn County jail Thursday evening, May 7. The pair were denied bond in a court appearance Friday.
Friday, father and son stood quietly Friday as the judge read murder and aggravated assault charges against them. In just a few minutes, their first court appearance was over. It was a moment that many in Arbery’s community had waited more than two months for, as a series of prosecutors declined to bring charges against the men.
The 25-year-old was killed on Feb. 23 along Satilla Drive near Holmes Drive in Glynn County, according to a police report obtained by FOX 5 Atlanta. His family said he was out for a Sunday afternoon jog.
According to an incident report filed by Glynn County police, Arbery was shot after the two men spotted him running in their neighborhood on a Sunday afternoon. Gregory McMichael told police that he and his adult son thought the runner matched the description of someone caught on a security camera committing a recent break-in in the neighborhood. They armed themselves with guns before getting in a truck to pursue him.
That was 53 days after the last reported break-in in the Satilla Shores neighborhood, according to police records. FOX 5 Atlanta obtained all reports for such incidents in the neighborhood from December 2019 through mid-March of this year. In all, there were three: December 8, 2019, December 28, and January 1.
On Dec. 8, a Satilla Shores neighbor reported rifles stolen from their unlocked car.
Police records note the incident on Dec. 8 as a “theft.”
On Jan. 1, Travis James McMichael filed a report of a firearm stolen from his truck.
The father said his son, Travis McMichael, got out of the truck holding a shotgun, and Arbery “began to violently attack.” He said Arbery was shot as the two men fought over the shotgun, according to the police report.
After Arbery was shot, the police report says, Gregory McMichael turned him onto his back to see if he was armed. The report doesn’t say whether he had a weapon, but it was later determined he did not.
Arrest warrants for Gregory and Travis McMichael filed in court Friday confirmed, as the initial police report stated, that Travis McMichael “pointed and discharged a shotgun … at Ahmaud Arbery.” But there were no new details.
The felony murder charges against the McMichaels mean that a victim was killed during the commission of an underlying felony, in this case aggravated assault. The charge doesn’t require intent to kill. A murder conviction in Georgia carries a minimum sentence of life in prison, either with or without parole.
The national spotlight had been shown on the case after a cellphone video surfaced reportedly showing the shooting death. The video, initially posted by a Brunswick radio station, shows a black man running at a jogging pace on the left side of a road. A truck is parked in the road ahead of him. One man is inside the pickup’s bed, and another is standing beside the open driver’s side door.
The runner crosses the road to pass the pickup on the passenger side, then crosses back in front of the truck. A gunshot sounds, and the video shows the runner grappling with a man in the street over what appears to be a shotgun or rifle. A second shot can be heard, and the runner can be seen punching the man. A third shot is fired at point-blank range. The runner staggers a few feet and falls face down.
Some of the encounter was apparently recorded in two 911 calls, with a dispatcher trying to understand the problem.
“There’s a black male running down the street,” a caller says.
“I just need to know what he was doing wrong,” the dispatcher responds, in part.
In a second call six minutes later, someone can be heard yelling “Stop. … Dammit. Stop.” Then, after a pause, “Travis!”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation held a news conference Friday morning announcing the arrests on murder and aggravated assault charges. The GBI director said the viral video of the actual shooting was helpful, but he based his case on the evidence.
“We based our decisions on two things, one are facts and the other is the law. Whatever the facts are we apply the law. I am very comfortable in telling you there is more than sufficient cause for felony murder, ” the director said with confidence.
“All that matters is what the facts tell us,” Reynolds continued, saying “every stone will be uncovered.”
Addressing the question of racial intent, Reynolds noted that Georgia has no hate crime law. That has prompted many civil rights activists to call for a federal investigation.
Georgia’s attorney general appointed a black district attorney Monday, May 11 to take over the case, making her the third outside prosecutor. Federal prosecutors are also considering hate crimes charges, the Justice Department said.
Cobb County District Attorney Joyette M. Holmes takes over the case from prosecutor Tom Durden, who the state’s attorney general said asked to be replaced by someone with a larger staff and more resources as “this case has grown in size and magnitude.” Holmes is based in metro Atlanta, more than 300 miles (480 kilometers) from the coastal Georgia community in Glynn County where the shooting happened.
“District Attorney Holmes is a respected attorney with experience, both as a lawyer and a judge,” state Attorney General Chris Carr, a Republican, said in a statement. “And the Cobb County District Attorney’s office has the resources, personnel and experience to lead this prosecution and ensure justice is done.”
An attorney for Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery, applauded the appointment of a new lead prosecutor.
“In order for justice to be carried out both effectively and appropriately in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, it is imperative that the special prosecutor has no affiliation with the Southeast Georgia legal or law enforcement communities,” attorney Benjamin Crump said in a statement. He asked that Holmes “be zealous in her search for justice.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.