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Police contacted one of the suspects in the slaying of Ahmaud Arbery to enlist help watching a construction site months before Arbery was shot to death while running down a Georgia street, text messages in the case reportedly reveal.
The messages suggest that Greg McMichael—who is now facing murder charges in Arbery’s death along with his son Travis McMichael—had told police he would look out for unwanted intruders at a nearby construction site.
The owner of the property, Larry English, had contacted police after his motion-activated camera caught a young man entering his property repeatedly beginning in late October, along with other unwanted visitors in the months that followed, according to The Atlanta Journal Constitution.
During one exchange with police on Dec. 17, Glynn County Officer Robert Rash texted English to offer the services of McMichael, who had once worked as a police officer and had recently retired as an investigator with the Brunswick district attorney’s office.
“Greg is retired Law Enforcement and also a Retired Investigator from the DA’s office,” Rash said in the message obtained by the paper, which also provided McMichael’s phone number. “He said please call him day or night when you when you get action on your camera.”
English’s lawyer J. Elizabeth Graddy told local station WSB-TV that although her client had received the message in December, he didn't see it until recently and often doesn't open his text messages and emails.
She said the message was recently discovered after she was going through his communications in connection with the case.
“When I saw (the texts), I immediately understood that an organization had been developing in that neighborhood since at least December,” she said. “It appears that Gregory McMichael had been informally ‘deputized’ by the Glynn County Police Department.”
She said English, who was not living in the area, never enlisted help from McMichael and said nothing was ever taken from the property.
Arbery was killed Feb. 23, shortly after surveillance video captured a man appearing to be Arbery wandering around English’s property.
Minutes later, another video released shows Arbery running down a road when he encounters a white truck in the street and an armed man standing outside the vehicle. The man believed to be Arbery tries to pass the truck on the passenger side before a gunshot is heard and Arbery can be seen struggling with a man believed to be Travis McMichael, before he stumbles and falls to the ground.
Gregory McMichael, who was also armed at the scene, told authorities the pair believed the 25-year-old had been robbing a home and was trying to detain him until authorities arrived. Gregory McMichael has said Arbery was shot after he “violently attacked” the father and son during a struggle for the gun.
Arbery’s family has said he was unarmed and been out for a jog at the time he was shot.
An autopsy report obtained by Oxygen.com revealed Arbery died of two close gun shot wounds to the chest. Another bullet also grazed his right wrist.
Both McMichaels were arrested and charged with murder earlier this month, shortly after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation stepped in to take over the case.
In a press conference announcing the arrests, GBI director Vic Reynolds said that “probable cause was clear to our agents pretty quickly” in the case.
LaGrange Police Chief Lou Dekmar, who is the past president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, told The Atlanta Journal Constitution that the text exchange between English and the Glynn County officer raises concerns about why a police officer would have designated the task of watching the property to a former officer.
“I’m not aware of any accepted policy for referring someone that requires a police response to delegate that response to a former law enforcement officer who happens to live in the neighborhood,” said Dekmar.
Rash declined to comment on the text message, according to the paper.
S. Lee Merritt, the attorney representing the Arbery family has called for the officer who sent the text to be arrested along with “all participating parties,” according to the New York Times.
“We believe this communication deputized a group of untrained men in the Satilla Shores community to hunt down suspected trespassers, causing the events of Feb. 23, 2020,” he said.
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