Every day there’s more news about the Arbery case, yet every day we get no closer to answering the central question. Why did the McMichaels grab their guns and go looking for him when they saw him “hauling ass” through the neighborhood instead of calling the sheriff?
Why confront him, especially if they feared that he was armed, as they claim?
We do at least seem to have an answer now to the question of what Greg McMichael was referring to when he told the police after Arbery was shot that he saw him “the other night.” From the police report:
When did they see him? A neighbor named Diego Perez claims it happened on February 11. Perez is friends with Larry English, the owner of the home in the neighborhood that’s under construction and where Arbery was caught on video at least once. Footage shows he was there shortly before the fatal confrontation with the McMichaels on February 23, but Perez says he was there before. On February 11, a motion-detection camera pinged English with new video from the property. English lives many miles away and pinged Perez to go have a look for him. Then:
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.
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.
Perez was also in the vicinity on the day Arbery was killed and raced to the scene. He says the man he found lying dead in the road was the same man whom Travis McMichael confronted coming out of English’s place on February 11.
Was he, though? Here’s some of the surveillance video recorded by English’s motion-detection camera on the property. It’s not dated, and there appear to be at least two different people who were caught on tape. The Arbery family says that’s not him in the footage. It doesn’t look like him to me or to Red State’s Jeff Charles, although there’s no way to be sure since the face is blurred. (The color footage recorded on the property on the day Arbery was killed clearly *is* of him.)
Did Arbery, or anyone else who came onto the property, commit any crime while there? Not burglary, says English. Nothing was ever taken from the premises.
“He never used the word ‘burglary,'” [English’s lawyer, Elizabeth Graddy] said, adding that nothing has ever been stolen from or damaged at the property. “My client did not want people to come on to the property because it’s just not safe.”
English never shared any of this information with the McMichaels, whom he did not even know, according to his attorney.
“Even if there had been a robbery, however, the English family would not have wanted a vigilante response,” Graddy said. “They would have entrusted the matter to law enforcement authorities.”
English met Travis McMichael once, and only briefly. He wasn’t the one who showed the McMichaels the surveillance video from the property. Presumably Perez did.
So, no burglary. There’s also no breaking and entering charge, I take it, since the structure wasn’t enclosed. It was under construction. Arbery is at least guilty of criminal trespassing, though, right? Actually, I’m not sure. This statute says you’ve committed that offense in Georgia if you enter “upon the land or premises of another person … after receiving, prior to such entry, notice from the owner, rightful occupant, or, upon proper identification, an authorized representative of the owner or rightful occupant that such entry is forbidden.” Were there notices posted that entry is forbidden? Did Perez show “proper identification” in warning Arbery on February 11 that entry is forbidden?
Either way, criminal trespass is a misdemeanor. Why was there an armed posse hunting this guy down over a misdemeanor — or a felony, for that matter — instead of calling the cops? And in case you’re wondering, no, the McMichaels hadn’t seen the footage of Arbery on English’s property earlier that afternoon when they killed him on February 23. English himself didn’t see the motion-detection footage from that day until after Arbery was dead.
Read Charles’s post for a thoughtful debunking of some other myths about the McMichaels’ confrontation with Arbery. Exit question: Did the police ever question Arbery for being on the property after Perez reported the incident on February 11 to them? Or was it so low priority that they didn’t spend much time looking for him? That also tells us something about the gravity, or lack of gravity, in his alleged trespassing.