73ºF

Retracing the moments leading up to the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery

The fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery happened on Feb. 23, 2020, but the events that led up to the 25-year-old’s death appear to have started building as early as October when neighbors started calling police for various suspicious activity and reported burglaries.

Using videos, reports and 911 calls, the News4Jax I-TEAM retraced the weeks and minutes leading up to the killing of Arbery.

On Dec. 17

On Dec. 17, a man building a home on a property in the Satilla Shores neighborhood just outside Brunswick captured video of several unknown people entering the construction site, including children and what appears to be a white couple.

The property owner, Larry English, sent those videos to Officer Robert Rash with the Glynn County Police Department, who was reprimanded two years earlier for failing to arrest a lieutenant with his agency when the lieutenant physically assaulted his wife.

Dec. 20

Rash responded to the homeowner on Dec. 20, telling him to call his neighbor, Gregory McMichael, “day or night when you get action on your camera.”

Feb. 11

Around 7:27 p.m. Feb. 11, Travis McMichael called 911 to report a possible trespasser inside the house under construction in his neighborhood.

“We’ve had a string of burglaries,” Travis McMichael says on the 911 recording. "I was leaving the neighborhood and I just caught a guy running into a house being built two houses down from me.''

Asked for a description, he says: “It’s a black male, red shirt and white shorts.” Calling from inside his truck, he sounds out of breath. The 911 operator asks: “Are you OK?”

“Yeah, it just startled me,” Travis McMichael replies. “When I turned around and saw him and backed up, he reached into his pocket and ran into the house. So I don’t know if he’s armed or not. But he looked like, he was acting like he was. So be mindful of that.”

Attorney J. Elizabeth Graddy, who represents English, said, the night of Feb. 11, he received an alert when motion inside the construction site triggered a security camera. The camera picked up on a black man coming into the home once. English did not recognize that person, Graddy said.

According to a police report about that day, which was written by Rash, neighbors were already posting videos and a description of the unknown man on a neighborhood Facebook page and the Nextdoor app.

Feb. 23

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained surveillance video from Feb. 23, the day of the deadly shooting.

The camera is recording from 219 Satilla Drive. It shows a man, believed to be Arbery, walk into the frame around 1:04 p.m., stand around in the yard and then walk into the home under construction.

A camera inside the home recorded him briefly walking in and looking around. He walks back out and then appears to go behind the home for a couple of minutes.

Around 1:08 p.m., a neighbor walked in front of 219 Satilla Drive and called police.

“There is a guy in a house right now. A house under construction,” the caller says.

The dispatcher responds: “You said someone’s breaking into it right now?”

“No, it’s all open. It’s under construction,” the caller says about 30 seconds into the call. “And he’s running right now. There he goes right now.”

The dispatcher asks: “What is he doing?”

“He’s running down the street,” the caller says.

Travis McMichael’s home was a few houses down from the construction site. There’s no video of what happened next. But there is a description from Travis McMichael’s father, Gregory McMichael. He told investigators he was in the front yard of 230 Satilla Drive and saw who he thought was a suspect in previous break-ins running down the street.

Gregory McMichael said he and his son got their guns, got in their truck and drove down Satilla Drive toward Burford Road.

When they reached the intersection of Holmes Road and Satilla Drive, Gregory McMichael said they saw Arbery running down Burford Road. According to Gregory McMichael, his son drove down Burford Road to cut Arbery off.

Another man, identified only as “Roddy,” tried to block Arbery on the other side, according to a Glynn County Police Department report. But Arbery managed to run around his vehicle.

At that point, Gregory McMichael said he got in the bed of the truck and Travis McMichael turned around and continued to follow Arbery to Holmes Road.

That’s where video picked back up and Gregory McMichael called 911. Dispatch shows the call came in at 1:14 p.m., which means Arbery had been running for more than four minutes.

photo

“I’m out here in Satilla Shores. There’s a black male running down the street," the caller says.

The dispatcher is trying to get more details when Gregory McMichael yells, “Stop. ... Dammit. Stop.” Then, after a pause, “Travis!”

The dispatcher says: “Sir, hello? Sir, where are you at?"

Two minutes after Gregory McMichael made the call to 911, police reported shots fired and that Arbery was on the ground, bleeding. A short time later, he died.

It would be more than two months later before the father and son seen in the video chasing Arbery were arrested on charges of felony murder and aggravated assault. Two weeks after that, William “Roddie” Bryan, Jr., who’s credited with recording the video of the deadly shooting, was arrested on charges of felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. According to arrest warrants obtained from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Bryan attempted “to confine and detain” Arbery “utilizing his vehicle on multiple occasions" during the encounter that ended with Arbery’s killing. Bryan’s attorney said that never happened.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


About the Author: