By Jason Hanna, Devon M. Sayers and Alta Spells, CNN
Prosecutors in the trial of three White men charged in Ahmaud Arbery’s killing played for jurors Thursday a recorded deposition of a man who owned the under-construction home that has been a central focus in the case.
Larry English Jr. testified in the September 24 deposition that surveillance footage at his property near Brunswick, Georgia, captured people on the property several times in late 2019 and early 2020, and in some instances he called 911 about the intrusions.
English previously told the court that a serious medical condition prevented him from testifying in person.
English said he had installed cameras around the home that he was able to monitor using an app on his phone. In late October 2019, English made a call to authorities to report an individual on his property, whom he described as “a colored guy, got real curly looking hair,” with tattoos, who was just “pondering around,” and asked for a deputy to go to the property.
He called authorities again when he saw a White couple entering his property on November 17, 2019, telling the dispatcher that “We had … some stuff stolen about a week and a half, two weeks ago there.” English called back a day later, telling authorities that he saw at the construction site the “same guy that was over there about a week and a half, two weeks ago.”
English was asked whether anything was ever taken from his construction site, to which he responded, “Not that I know of.”
Three White men — Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. — are accused of chasing Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, in vehicles and killing him in that neighborhood on February 23, 2020.
The defendants are charged with malice and felony murder in connection with the killing. They also face charges of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony. All have pleaded not guilty.
If convicted, each man could face life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Arbery’s family has said he was out for a jog when he was shot and killed. Cell phone video of the episode surfaced more than two months later, sparking widespread public outrage and demonstrations just weeks before the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis set off a summer of nationwide protests against racial injustice.
“Ahmaud just (was an) African-American guy who decided to go jogging and in the midst of his jog he stopped by a unoccupied home under construction and looked around and (was) killed immediately,” Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Thursday night. “Ahmaud had a life. Ahmaud was loved by many.”
Bryan, who recorded the cell phone video, is accused of hitting Arbery with his truck after he joined the McMichaels in chasing Arbery. According to a transcript read in court Thursday, Bryan told an investigator he “angled” Arbery off the side of a road because he believed Arbery was trying to reach for his truck door, but did not think he hit Arbery.
Owner: I told neighbor he could check my property, but not the McMichaels
Defense attorneys contend their clients were trying to conduct a lawful citizen’s arrest of Arbery, whom they suspected of burglary after they and several neighbors became concerned about people entering English’s under-construction home. The defense contends Travis McMichael shot Arbery in self-defense as Arbery and Travis McMichael wrestled over Travis’ shotgun.
The confrontation came minutes after a neighbor called police to say Arbery was at English’s property that afternoon. Gregory McMichael, investigators testified, said he initiated the pursuit after seeing Arbery speedily run by McMichael’s home, and that he believed Arbery matched the description of someone who’d been recorded at the construction site before.
However, prosecution witnesses have testified that McMichael did not know at the time that Arbery was at the site that day, or whether a man in English’s surveillance videos had ever stolen anything.
The prosecution has said surveillance videos do show Arbery at the site multiple times, but always without breaking in and without incident.
In his deposition, English testified that other than police, he only ever gave one person permission to check his property — a man who lives near the site, but is not one of the defendants.
That man had offered to do so, English said, after texting to him that he’d heard about intrusions at the property.
“At any point in time, did you ever authorize the McMichaels to … confront anybody on your site?” prosecutor Paul Camarillo said during the deposition.
“No,” English replied.
Camarillo also asked whether English had given the McMichaels permission to go onto the property, or whether he had told them they couldn’t go on the property. English answered no to both.
He added that he never posted surveillance videos of his site to social media but said he may have shown them to neighborhood resident Matt Albenze.
Albenze testified this week that he called police on the day of Arbery’s killing to say that a man — later identified as Arbery — was at English’s property.
English said he had met Travis McMichael once, and that he had spoken to Gregory McMichael and his wife at least once before the shooting.
Camarillo asked English whether he had told the McMichaels about any incidents at his house.
“Probably. But I’m not sure,” English answered.
Defense attorney’s comments spark outrage
Also Thursday, comments from Kevin Gough, defense attorney for Bryan, sparked outrage after he suggested the presence of civil rights leaders who were attending the trial to support Arbery’s family was potentially intimidating the jury.
“If we’re going to start a precedent … where we’re going to bring high-profile members of the African-American community into the courtroom to sit with the family during the trial in the presence of the jury, I believe that’s intimidating and it’s an attempt to pressure,” Gough told the court following a lunch break. “Could be consciously or unconsciously an attempt to pressure or influence the jury.”
“We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here … sitting with the victim’s family trying to influence a jury in this case,” he added.
His comments drew reactions from the Rev. Al Sharpton, who joined Arbery’s parents on Wednesday, and Rev. William J. Barber II, who was in Brunswick a day later, both choosing to be present to show their support to Arbery’s family.
Gough’s statement, Sharpton said, was “arrogant insensitivity” which “underscores the disregard for the value of the human life lost and the grieving of a family in need spiritual and community support.”
Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, told CNN during Thursday night’s interview she was “very surprised” to hear that the attorney “frowned upon anybody, any pastor that would come in and to sit with the family to keep us encouraged.”
“It was just very insensitive that he would frown upon that,” she added. “Very surprising, but also very, very rude.”
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the description of charges against the defendants.
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Devon M. Sayers reported from Brunswick and Jason Hanna and Alta Spells wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Pamela Kirkland contributed to this report.