Two weeks prior to the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, Travis McMichael, one of the two men arrested in Arbery’s murder investigation, had an encounter with a Black man at a neighboring house under construction, the Atlanta Journal- Constitution reports.
The story paints more suspicion around the McMichaels and their possible motives in the shooting death of Arbery on February 23.
Diego Perez, a neighbor who was present on the night of February 11, the day of the newly reported encounter, told the AJC that he was asked to check on the property after receiving a text from the homeowner, Larry English. Perez, who lives two houses down from the construction site, said he agreed to watch English’s property because he lived a far distance away.
English said a motion censor was triggered which prompted him to reach out to Perez. Perez said he was armed as he walked up to the home and upon arrival, was greeted by McMichael.
“Travis saw him in the yard and Travis stopped,” Perez told The AJC. “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. “
Moments later, Travis returned with his father Gregory, who was also armed.
A 911 recording on the night of February 11 from Travis McMichael confirms he was at the scene. On the tape McMichael can be heard saying he “caught a guy running into a house being built, two houses down from me. When I turned around, he took off running into the house,” CNN reports. McMichael described the man as a Black male who was wearing a red shirt and white jogging shorts.
Perez claims the next time he saw the man was on February 23, as Ahmaud Arbery laid on the pavement motionless. The McMichaels told authorities that they believed Arbery was involved in a string of recent break-ins in the neighborhood, however in an interview with CNN, Glynn County Police LT. Cheri Bashlor said that only one automobile burglary was reported on January 1 in the neighborhood.
English says he wants to be careful regarding Arbery’s whereabouts and description because he was unable to identify him as the person who was at the scene on the night of February 11.
“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.
In an interview with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation English claimed he didn’t know the McMichaels before the incident and confirmed that nothing was taken from his property. A surveillance video captured hours before the February 23 incident appears to show Arbery walking around the site, but it does not prove that he was doing anything illegal, certainly nothing to illicit his untimely death.
Travis and Gregory McMichael are currently in custody facing charges of aggravated assault and murder. Their arrests came two months after Arbery’s death, spurred by horrifying viral footage of Arbery’s last moments.
The GBI’s investigation is still underway and earlier this week Cobb County prosecutor Joyette Holmes was announced as the lead investigator in the case. As the case continues to garner national attention, additional information regarding what happened on February 23 continues to fall into place. A startling note left at the site of Arbery’s death raised more questions after it was discovered by WJXT reporter Jenese Harris.
“Ahmaud, I am so sorry. I should have stopped them. I am so sorry,” the unsigned note reads. According to WJXT, the GBI would not comment on the details of the note, which was entered as part of the investigation.