Ahmaud Arbery trial: Police officer testifies he would have given trespass warning

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A police officer testified Friday he had planned to give Ahmaud Arbery a trespass warning for repeatedly entering an under-construction home before three White men pursued the unarmed Black man, 25, and shot him dead.

Glynn County Police Officer Robert Rash had been communicating with Georgia home-owner Larry English, who had sent him videos of Arbery lurking around the property in the Satilla Shores neighborhood on four occasions. 

“Once we make contact with the person on the property, we explain to them the homeowner does not want them there, they have no legal reason to be there,” Rash testified in Glynn County Superior Court. He did not yet know Arbery’s identity, he said. “I explain to that person, if you ever come back onto this property for any reason, you will be arrested,” he added. There was no evidence Arbery had ever taken anything from the home, Rash said.

This combination of booking photos provided by the Glynn County, Ga., Detention Center, shows, from left, Travis McMichael, his father, Gregory McMichael, and William "Roddie" Bryan Jr.  
(Glynn County Detention Center via AP, File)

If Arbery had failed to heed the warning, at most, he faced a misdemeanor trespassing charge under Georgia law, the officer told the panel, which includes only one Black juror. 

Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan are on trial for murder, aggravated assault and false imprisonment. 

After Greg McMichael spotted Arbery running by his house Feb. 23, 2020, he called for his son and the two grabbed their guns and pursued him through the neighborhood in a truck. Bryan, who was unarmed, joined the Sunday afternoon chase in his own pick-up.

Ahmaud Arbery

Greg McMichael later told an officer they had “trapped him like a rat” with their trucks when the young man allegedly lunged for Travis McMichael’s shotgun. After a brief tussle over the firearm, Travis McMichael blasted Arbery twice in the chest. 

Bryan filmed part of the deadly confrontation on his cellphone and the leaked footage went viral, sparking national outrage in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. 

Rash told jurors that he had instructed English to call Greg McMichael, a former police officer and retired investigator, if he spotted Arbery again on his surveillance footage.

Rev. Al Sharpton with Ahmaud Arbery’s family and their attorney outside the Glynn County courthouse, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Brunswick, Ga. Rev. Sharpton led a prayer and spoke out against injustice during the noon break in the trial of three men charged with murder in Ahmaud Abery’s shooting death.  
(AP Photo/Lewis M. Levine Coastal)

Defense lawyers have argued that the men suspected Arbery was a burglar who may be armed and were trying to detain him until police arrived. 

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski has said the men had no authority to arrest Arbery – whom she described as an “avid jogger” who had given his pursuers no reason to suspect him of wrongdoing. 

Before testimony began Friday, Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, apologized for saying Thursday he didn’t want “any more black pastors” in court setting off a swift backlash. Rev. Al Sharpton had been seated in the gallery with Arbery’s family, and Gough expressed concern that his presence was intended to influence the jury.

“My apologies to anyone who might have inadvertently been offended,” the attorney said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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