A witness who called the police after seeing Ahmaud Arbery inside a home under construction the day he was chased and fatally shot in his Georgia neighborhood has expressed regret for doing so.
Matthew Albenze said he was splitting wood in the front yard of his home in the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick in February 2020 when he saw Arbery outside his neighbor’s house.
Albenze said the owner of the house had shown him a video of a Black man walking around the empty house before, and he believed Arbery was the same person he saw.
Albenze said he went into his house, grabbed his pistol and cellphone and came back outside to Arbery inside the property. That’s when he called the nonemergency police phone number.
Albenze told the court he did not call 911 because he did not consider what he saw as an emergency. Arbery was “just looking around” the partially constructed home, Albenze testified. He told defense attorney Bob Rubin that he felt responsible for the turn of events that day, 11 Alive News reported.
“I thought maybe if he hadn’t [seen Albenze], he wouldn’t have run away — I don’t know,” Albenze said.
“And that still weighs heavy on your heart,” Rubin responded to the witness.
Albenze told the dispatcher that Arbery took off running, but Albenze said he did not know why. He told the court he could not verify whether Arbery saw him. Minutes later, Arbery was shot to death.
Three other white neighbors are facing nine charges for Arbery’s killing.
Travis McMichael was captured on a viral video shooting Arbery during a scuffle over McMichael’s gun. He and his father, Greg McMichael told police they were chasing Arbery because they suspected he was responsible for a string of burglaries.
Defense attorneys argue the pair was attempting to detain Arbery for a citizen’s arrest. The third man on trial, William “Roddie” Bryan, joined in the pursuit and captured the killing on video. He has also been accused of hitting Arbery with his truck.
In the trial, which started on Nov. 5, prosecutors said the 25-year-old Black man was jogging in the neighborhood when he was targeted by the father-and-son duo. The men were not charged in the case until two months later, following national outrage.
Civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton has called the slaying a “21st Century lynching.”
Jury selection in the case has led to more outrage. Just one of the 12 jurors is Black, while 55 percent of Brunswick residents are Black.
Greg McMichael, a former Glynn County officer, told investigators after the shooting that they had Arbery “trapped like a rat.” Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, in a press conference, referred to the comment as “disturbing.”
She also slammed a former Glynn County investigator for his handling of the case.
Cooper-Jones said the investigator Stephan Lowrey, who testified on Nov. 10, called her last February and told her a homeowner killed her son during a burglary. Yet, Cooper-Jones said Lowrey did not mention a burglary during his testimony.
“Ahmaud ran, Ahmaud was chased, Ahmaud was killed and then Ahmaud was lied on,” she said.
Another witness who testified said she recalled seeing a Black man near the construction site in December and January and wondered what he was doing there. Kellie Parr, whose parents live in the neighborhood, told the court she kept driving because she did not want to be racist.
On Nov. 11, jurors watched a nearly four-hour deposition from Larry English, the owner of the home under construction. English was allowed to give a deposition in lieu of testimony because he is in poor health.
English said the house had no doors. He had installed motion-activated security cameras around it because teenagers were often near his dock behind the house. He believed more than $2,000 worth of electronics equipment had been stolen from his boat.
English said he had seen Arbery wandering on the property numerous times but told investigators that Arbery did not take anything.
“I got a trespasser there. He’s a colored guy, got real curly-looking hair,” English told a dispatcher during an emergency call after spotting Arbery. “He’s tattooed down both arms.”
According to the deposition, English called 911 at least four times on Nov. 17, 2019, after he saw a white man and woman entering the house with a bag.
“They may be trying to steal electronics from the big boat in the garage area,” he told the dispatcher.
English reportedly first saw Arbery on the surveillance video on Oct. 25, 2019. However, he told investigators he did not recall showing the videos to anyone or posting them online.
The McMichaels and Bryan face four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. All three men have pleaded not guilty.
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