Less than two weeks before the Feb. 23 incident that left Ahmaud Arbery fatally shot in a suburb outside Brunswick, the father and son charged in the case had a confrontation with a young black man who had entered a neighboring house under construction, according to a neighbor who helped in the search.
Diego Perez accompanied Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34, on the Feb. 11 search and was at the shooting scene immediately after Arbery was shot on Feb. 23. Perez said he recognized Arbery as the man they had confronted earlier.
The McMichaels were arrested by the GBI last week and charged with felony murder and aggravated assault. They have been denied bond.
The Feb. 11 encounter had been prompted by a motion-sensor security camera video in the construction site that had pinged the property owner who was two hours away. The owner, Larry English, texted the video to Perez, who lived near the construction site.
Perez, who has spoken to the GBI, had offered to keep watch, and told English he’d be happy to check on the property any time. English told the AJC that he did not know the McMichaels or provide them with any camera footage. Nothing was taken from his property, he said.
Perez said he was armed when he left his home and walked up Satilla Drive that night. As he walked toward the house under construction, Perez said Travis McMichael drove up from the opposite direction, and stopped his truck.
“Travis saw him in the yard and Travis stopped,” Perez told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday. “He confronted (the man) halfway into the yard. He said (the man) reached for his waistband, and Travis got spooked and went down the road. “
When McMichael returned, his father, Gregory McMichael, was with him and armed, said Perez, who added the elder McMichael had called the Glynn County Police Department.
» CONTINUING COVERAGE: AHMAUD ARBERY DEATH
Perez said he found no evidence of the young man around the house. When police arrived, Perez described the vehicle to police that he believes the young man entered before it drove away. Perez said they recognized the young man who had been in other security camera videos at the construction site in the months before.
“All we knew about him was that he was the guy who kept showing up on our cameras,” Perez said. “No one knew who it was.”
Perez said he saw the man again on Feb. 23, this time motionless. Arbery lay dead on the pavement.
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