Ahmaud Arbery case: Security footage shows visits to construction site

Property owner’s attorney says the man may have come in for a drink of water

Security camera footage from a home under construction in the neighborhood where Ahmaud Arbery was shot to death in February shows a person who appears to be the same young man entering the property several times since last fall.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reviewed video footage and police reports involving five dates where the young man appeared on the property and tripped the motion-sensor videos that sent an alert to property owner Larry English’s phone.

The footage is part of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s case as agents try to piece together what happened before Arbery’s Feb. 23 death in a suburb outside Brunswick. Investigators are still trying to determine if the young man in the videos is Arbery, but his family’s legal team said a video of a figure entering the property on the day of the killing appears to be him.

“This video is consistent with the evidence already known to us. Ahmaud Arbery was out for a jog,” the legal team said in a statement.  “He stopped by a property under construction where he engaged in no illegal activity and remained for only a brief period. Ahmaud did not take anything from the construction site. He did not cause any damage to the property.”

Most of the videos are short clips showing a person walking around inside the construction site, on the outside of the structure or in a dock area behind the property.

“It was kind of unsettling to have somebody coming on your property in the middle of the night,” English told the AJC. The videos show no evidence of theft and English told police nothing was ever taken from the property.

In a Dec. 17 video, the young man, wearing shorts and an athletic shirt, exits the garage area, walks slowly for a second or two, and then heads down the driveway across a patch of yard, before entering Satilla Drive at a jogger’s pace.

On Friday morning, English’s attorney Elizabeth Graddy issued a statement citing the AJC story on the videos that posted Thursday night. She said the family had reviewed the videos more closely.

Her statement speculated the young man may have been entering the property for water. She said there were two water faucets on the property – one at the rear of the house and one on the side.

“Although these water sources do not appear within any of the cameras’ frames, the young man moves to and from their locations,” she said.

The statement also referenced one of the clips Graddy had provided to the AJC on Thursday where the young man appears in athletic clothes and leaves the property at a jogger’s pace.

Arbery’s family said he liked to jog in the area and was doing just that on the day he was shot to death. The GBI has charged Travis McMichael, 34, and his father, Gregory McMichael, 64, with felony murder and aggravated assault.

Motion-activated cameras on the site of the home under construction alerted English, the property owner, whenever anyone entered. On one such occasion, cameras recorded a man and woman on the property after 10 p.m. on Nov. 17. Police arrived around 10:30 p.m. but didn’t find anyone, records show.

English was alerted the next night, when cameras recorded a person who appeared to be the same young man who had visited before. Police responded again, and again didn’t find anyone on the site.

Cameras tripped again sometime after 7 p.m. on Feb. 11. That night, according to audio of a 911 call, Travis McMichael was driving his red pickup truck past the construction site when he spotted someone he deemed suspicious.

“I was leaving the neighborhood and I just caught a guy running into a house being built,” McMichael told the emergency dispatcher. “When I turned around, he took off running into the house.”

Neighbors and several police officers searched but didn’t find anyone. Security camera footage from inside the construction site that night shows a person, who appears to be the same man who’d been entering for months, walking slowly through the house.

Twelve days later, a person believed to be Arbery entered the construction site around 1 p.m. He walked into the garage briefly and then appeared to walk to the back of the property, security camera footage from a neighbor’s house showed. Someone in the neighborhood called 911 to say the man had entered the property. During that call, the neighbor reported to police that the man went running down Satilla Drive.

Around this time on Feb. 23, English’s phone again received a text alert. He is a beekeeper and was handling bee trays at one of his hives in Coffee County, nearly two hours away.

By the time he washed the honey off his hands and looked at his phone, 20 minutes had elapsed, and another video appeared. It showed a man on the property who appeared to be the same person who’d been in the home in previous months.

Then came a report of an incident in the neighborhood: A man had been shot and was believed to be dead.

English said he was not involved with the events of Feb. 23 and he didn’t know the McMichaels. He said he feels deep distress for the Arbery family. He doubts he will ever move to Brunswick, even once construction on the home on Satilla Drive is completed. His said his family has received death threats since the incident and wouldn’t feel safe.

The case has drawn unwanted interest to the site.

“Due to the property’s notoriety, unauthorized persons are regularly entering the property,” English’s attorney, Graddy, said in a  statement. “For everyone’s safety, Mr. English asks that the public observe the posted ‘no trespassing’ signs.”

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