Ahmaud Arbery: Video appears to show jogger on construction site moments before his killing

Attorneys for family of young black man in Georgia say footage 'confirms that Mr Arbury's murder was not justified and the actions of the men who ambushed him were unjustified' as Department of Justice considers hate crime charges against suspects

Alex Woodward
New York
Monday 11 May 2020 18:52 BST
Video shows mean who appears to be Ahmaud Arbery at construction site before shooting

Newly released surveillance footage appears to show Ahmaud Arbery walking into an open construction site before jogging away empty handed, moments before he was killed.

The video's release follows the arrests of Gregory and Travis McMichael for murder and assault more than two months after Mr Arbery's death, following widely shared video of the killing of the young unarmed black man that sparked international outrage and renewed calls against racist violence and modern-day "lynchings".

Following the shooting, white 64-year-old retired police officer Gregory McMichael — who along with his 34-year-old son had armed themselves before pursuing Mr Arbery on 23 February — told police that he believed Mr Arbery was responsible for a rash of burglaries in the area.

In footage from a home security camera, a person believed to be Mr Arbery walks into an open construction site and looks around before jogging away from the area, consistent with his family's account of the moments leading up to his killing — that he entered the neighbourhood, stopped at the under-construction property, then jogged away, minutes before the two men got into a truck and followed him.

According to his family's attorneys, the footage "appears to show a person, believed to be Ahmaud Arbery, entering a property under construction. The individual remains on the property for under 3 minutes before continuing to jog down the road. This video is consistent with the evidence already known to us."

The statement said: "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."

Attorneys said that the video "confirms that Mr Arbury's murder was not justified and the actions of the men who ambushed him were unjustified."

In a statement, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation — which is now handling the case following the recusals of two prosecutors who had previously worked with the elder McMichael — confirmed that the agency is reviewing additional video evidence as part of its investigation: "We are indeed reviewing additional video footage and photographs as part of the active case. It is important to note that this footage was reviewed at the beginning of the GBI investigation and before the arrests of Gregory and Travis McMichael."

The footage was released as the US Justice Department announced it's "assessing all of the evidence" to determine whether to apply federal hate crime charges against the McMichaels.

In a statement on Monday, agency spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said the department "will continue to assess all information, and we will take any appropriate action that is warranted by the facts and the law."

The McMichaels are arrested for murder of Ahmaud Arbery

The GBI and District Attorney Tom Durden are reviewing law enforcement officials' handling of the case, while other officials and civil rights groups have called for a federal investigation, after the two recused prosecutors reportedly told police to delay arresting the McMichaels for the killing.

One day after the shooting, prosecutor George Barnhill had told police that he believed the McMichaels had just cause to pursue Mr Arbery, who was unarmed, and that they acted in self-defence, a claim that legal experts have dismissed as invalid.

Larry English, the man who owns the house under construction, told The Washington Post that the structure was not burgled, and that the McMichaels' accounts of robberies at the site are "completely wrong."

"I've never had a police report or anything stolen from my property, or any kind of robbery," he said.

In a statement to The Independent, Mr English's attorney J Elizabeth Graddy said Mr English "wants to correct the mistaken impression that he had shared the video or other information with the McMichaels prior to the McMichaels' decision to chase Mr Arbery."

The statement continued: "The homeowners had not even seen the 23 February video before Travis McMichael shot Mr Arbery. When homeowner Larry English saw the photos of Mr Arbery that were later broadcast, his first impression was that Mr Arbery was not the man captured on video inside the house on 23 February, and he said that to a neighbour."

"The homeowners were shocked and deeply saddened by these events, which they learned of after-the-fact," the statement said. "The homeowners are parents, and they are heartsick for Mr Arbery's mother and father. Larry English and his family are praying for the Arberys."

Police also confirmed that no previous reports were made in the neighbourhood; Mr English had called a non-emergency line to report a break-in after a motion-activated camera captured video of a person at a largely empty construction site in the months prior to Mr Arbery's death.

According to the attorney, a motion-activated camera "had captured videos of someone inside the house (which was and remains a construction site) at night" though Mr English "has never said that Mr Arbery was the person or persons in those videos, and he does not see a resemblance now."

"Nothing was ever stolen from the house — which, again, was a construction site," the statement said. "Even if there had been a robbery, however, the English family would not have wanted a vigilante response. They would have entrusted the matter to law enforcement authorities. ... The only crime that the homeowner has seen captured on video is the senseless killing of Mr Arbery."

In another video, two people can be seen near a pickup truck in a nearby driveway close to the construction site.

Gregory McMichael told police that he was in the front yard when he saw someone "hauling ass" down the street before the two men armed themselves, got into the truck and followed Mr Arbery.

After the person believed to be Mr Arbery can be seen running down the street, a truck that resembles the one driven by the McMichaels follows in the same direction.

Four minutes later, a police cruiser is seen heading in the same direction, followed by another, as well as an ambulance and more police cruisers.

A block away from the residential area in which the surveillance footage was recording, Mr Arbery was jogging towards a truck blocking the road before the McMichaels confronted him. Three shots were fired, and Mr Arbery was killed.

On what would have been Mr Arbery's 26th birthday on Friday, hundreds of people crowded the Glynn County Courthouse to urge the criminal justice system to take action more than two months after his death.

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