A police officer testified Friday that he had been looking for Ahmaud Arbery to give him a trespass warning after a concerned homeowner reported someone had been entering their unfinished home over a five-month period.
Glynn County Police Officer Robert Rash said he spoke with the owners of the property several times who sent him videos of Arbery at the unfinished home.
Arbery, 25, was shot dead on the last day the homeowner’s video shows him entering the home, the Associated Press reported. The videos submitted to police by the homeowner show Arbery at the site between Oct. 25, 2019, and Feb. 23, 2020 – the day Arbery died.
Rash testified he had been looking for Arbery, whose identity was unknown at the time, to tell him to stay away from the unfinished home. The police have a standard protocol for people caught trespassing.
“Once we make contact with the person on the property, we explain to them the homeowner does not want them there, they have no legal reason to be there,” Rash said. “I explain to that person, if you ever come back onto this property for any reason, you will be arrested.”
Larry English, the property owner, has said he was concerned that the same person kept coming into the house after dark but there was no evidence that person stole anything.
On Feb. 23, 2020, father and son Greg and Travis McMichael, in a pickup truck, chased Arbery after he ran past their home, which was near the unfinished house Arbery was seen at. He was shot three times with a shotgun and died in the street. The event was recorded on a cellphone by Willian “Roddie” Bryan, a neighbor who joined the chase.
All three men are standing trial on charges of murder and other crimes at the Glynn County Courthouse in coastal Brunswick. They maintain they believed at the time that Arbery was a burglary suspect and they were acting in self-defense.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
It took more than two months before the three men were arrested after the graphic video leaked online and deepened a national reckoning over racial injustice.
Defense attorneys say the men reasonably suspected Arbery was a burglar and were trying to hold him for police. They say Travis McMichael, 35, fired his gun in self defense when Arbery attacked with his fists.
On Feb. 11, 2020, less than two weeks before Arbery was killed, Rash was again dispatched to the neighborhood after Travis McMichael called 911 and reported seeing the same man outside the unfinished home — and telling dispatchers the man reached for his pocket as if he had a gun.
The jury saw Rash’s body camera video, which shows him entering the home under construction with a flashlight and his gun drawn. Rash said Travis McMichael’s report that the man could be armed made him more of a potential threat.
“So this was a different situation,” said Robert Rubin, one of Travis McMichael’s attorneys. “You’re going into a house with a man who might have a gun.”
Defense attorneys contend the McMichaels were justified in arming themselves before chasing Arbery because they feared he might have a gun. Police determined after the shooting that Arbery was unarmed.
Rubin also asked Rash if anyone in the neighborhood said they had ever seen Arbery jogging in the neighborhood when the officer showed them his image from the security camera footage.
“I did not specifically ask, ‘Have you seen this guy jogging?'” Rash said. “But no one had seen him in the neighborhood period.”