The father and son charged with murder in the high-profile Ahmaud Arbery case had a confrontation with a young black man in the same Georgia neighborhood less than two weeks before Arbery’s fatal Feb. 23 shooting, a witness said.
Diego Perez, one of the neighbors interviewed by the Glynn County Police Department, believes the person involved in the Feb. 11 encounter was Arbery, the 25-year-old unarmed black jogger whose killing has sparked a national outcry and calls for a hate-crime investigation.
The previously unknown confrontation happened shortly after the owner of a home under construction in the area asked Perez to check on the property for him, the neighbor told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday. The owner, Larry English, had a motion-sensor security system on the Satilla Shores property, but he was away that night.
As an armed Perez walked toward the construction site, murder suspect Travis McMichael drove from the opposite direction and stopped his truck by the property, Perez told the paper.
McMichael, 34, reportedly saw a young black man in the yard and confronted him.
“He said [the man] reached for his waistband and Travis got spooked and went down the road,” the neighbor told the Journal-Constitution.
Perez said McMichael returned moments later with his father, Gregory, but it was not clear if they saw the young man again that night.
The next time Perez saw him was the day of the shooting, after he had already been shot and was lying on the pavement near his home, Perez said.
The McMichaels, who were charged with murder shortly after a video of the killing surfaced online last week, claim they were chasing a burglary suspect when they fatally shot Arbery.
The fatal encounter happened minutes after a man believed to be Arbery was seen on surveillance camera wandering around that same construction site. The man appeared to be on the property for about three minutes, but he was not seen touching or stealing anything.
“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,” the property owner told CNN on Tuesday.
Lawyers for Arbery’s family said the footage “is consistent with the evidence already known” to them. And the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which took over the case last week, said the video was reviewed before arrests were made.