A text message obtained by CNN shows a Glynn County police officer told the owner of a home under construction near the Georgia coast that he could contact Gregory McMichael for help with potential trespassers seen in surveillance video from his property.
Months later, Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son, Travis McMichael, 34, would be arrested for the February 23 fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, who was jogging through the neighborhood and, according to attorneys for Arbery’s family, seen in surveillance footage from the property that day.
Elizabeth Graddy, an attorney for the homeowner, Larry English, said the text exchange occurred on December 20, 2019. In it, English sends a video clip from his surveillance camera to the police officer. The officer responded, telling English that one of English’s neighbors is Gregory McMichael, a retired police officer and retired investigator in the local district attorney’s office.
McMichael “said please call him day or night when you get action on your camera,” the officer wrote in his text message to English.
CNN has reached out to the Glynn County Police Department for comment but has not heard back.
McMichael and his son, the alleged shooter, were arrested May 7 and charged with felony murder and aggravated assault in the death of Arbery.
Attorneys for the elder McMichael said in a statement Friday that their client “did not commit murder,” pointing out that he’s been charged as party to the crime. The attorneys, Frank and Laura Hogue, said they are aware of “several other critically important facts” that portray “a very different narrative” for the killing.
Travis McMichael’s attorneys made similar comments on Thursday, saying he had “been vilified before his voice could even be heard.”
“The truth in this case will exonerate Travis,” the statement said.
Arbery was running in the Satilla Shores neighborhood outside Brunswick on February 23 when he was followed by the McMichaels and fatally shot, according to a Glynn County police report.
Gregory McMichael told police after the shooting that he and his son pursued Arbery because they thought he looked like a suspect in a series of recent break-ins, the report says. A struggle ensued between Arbery and Travis McMichael, who was armed with a shotgun, according to the report and a video that appears to show the incident. Arbery was shot three times, including twice in the chest, according to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation autopsy report.
No string of break-ins was reported in more than seven weeks before Arbery’s death and there was only a burglary report after a gun was stolen from an unlocked vehicle in front of the McMichaels’ home, police said.
The two men were arrested two days after the 36-second video was published, sparking widespread outrage that the suspects, who are white, had not been arrested more than two months after Arbery, an African American, was killed.
Video clips show other people on the property
Surveillance video from English’s construction site on February 23 appears to show Arbery minutes before he was killed. The footage appears to show him looking around but never touching anything and eventually, walking away.
Earlier this week, English said he never accused Arbery of any wrongdoing.
“I don’t want it to be put out and misused and misinterpreted for people to think that I had accused Mr. Arbery of stealing or robbery, because I never did,” English told CNN’s Chris Cuomo Tuesday night.
By the time English had seen the clip, Arbery was already dead, according to Graddy, the attorney for English.
Multiple security video clips obtained by CNN show unidentified people on other occasions entering English’s home, which was under construction.
In a video from February 11, another person is seen in the home. A 911 caller who identified himself as Travis McMichael that day said he saw a man go into the house, according to a Glynn County police report.
English told CNN he could not identify the individual in the February 11 footage and said he did not report the incident to the police.
In a statement to CNN on Friday, Graddy said the man in the February 11 video appears to be the same man filmed in the house last fall and on December 17. She said the man may have come into the house for water, adding there are water sources both behind the house and in front of it. In the December 17 footage, the man is seen wiping his mouth and “what sounds like water can be heard” before he jogs away, Graddy said in a statement.
Attorneys for Arbery’s parents said they have reviewed a number of surveillance videos released by English’s attorney. They confirmed Ahmaud Arbery appeared in one video but were unable to confirm that he appeared in the others.
The statement from the attorneys said people were frequently on the construction site both day and night but “Ahmaud Arbery seems to be the only one who was presumed to be a criminal.”
CNN’s Lindsay Benson, Tina Burnside, Jason Morris, Martin Savidge and Theresa Waldrop contributed to this report.