BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Months before Ahmaud Arbery walked into a construction site and was chased and killed, an officer was called to the same site and intended to issue a trespassing warning to a man who matched Arbery’s description, the officer testified Friday.
Officer Robert Rash with the Glynn County Police Department told jurors in the murder trial of the three men charged in Arbery’s killing that he had spoken with the owner of the site about a Black man spotted several times on surveillance video. The officer said he intended to find out who the person was, explain to them that the owner did not want them there and put the person on speakerphone with the owner.
“At that point in time, there had not been a crime reported. There was no report made by (the homeowner) of a burglary at his residence,” Rash testified.
Father and son Travis and Gregory McMichael and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, are charged with murder and other crimes in Arbery’s killing on Feb. 23, 2020, in Brunswick’s Satilla Shores neighborhood. The men were arrested two months after the incident, after cellphone video recorded by Bryan was made public.
Travis and Gregory McMichael could be seen at the house under construction on Feb. 12, 2020, according to police bodycam video shown to jurors Friday. Rash, the officer, can be seen responding to the house and searching the site with his gun drawn. A group of neighbors, including the McMichaels, can be seen joining the officer in the search and talking in a group in front of the site.
The officer testified that, the previous December, he had passed by Gregory McMichael in the area and shown him surveillance videos of the unidentified man on the property. The officer said he knew McMichael was a retired investigator and wanted him to be a “witness” and call 911 if he saw the man. Asked by the prosecution if he “deputized” any of the neighbors, the officer said no.
Instead, months later, Gregory and Travis McMichael chased Arbery in a pickup truck, and Travis McMichael fatally shot him. Bryan also chased Arbery in a truck and captured the incident on cellphone video.
Prosecutors say Arbery did not commit any crimes and was killed because the three white men made assumptions about what a Black man was doing in their neighborhood. Attorneys for the McMichaels argue the father and son were attempting to detain Arbery for police questioning, and attorneys for Bryan say he was simply a bystander.
During testimony Wednesday and Thursday, attorneys for the defense and prosecution repeatedly referred to a “Black man” or “Black male” on the site of the house under construction but did not refer to the man as Arbery. Prosecutors have said Arbery was the man seen on surveillance video Feb, 23, the day he was killed.
Habersham reported from Brunswick. Hauck reported from Chicago.