Owner of house Ahmaud Arbery purportedly entered before fatal shooting receiving death threats
Larry English had long dreamed of owning a waterfront home. It was on his bucket list. He wanted easy access to fish and boat and a peaceful distraction from the stress of his heart-related illness.
Courtesy of family
His dream home is under construction in Brunswick, Georgia. But English said it is unlikely he and his family will ever move into the home once it is complete.
"Now, it's honestly not safe," said his attorney, Elizabeth Graddy. "It's supposed to be a place for comfort and peace. And now, it will be forever associated with this tragedy."
English, 50, owns the house that Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, purportedly entered before he was shot and killed on Feb. 23 by two white men.
Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34, were arrested and charged on Thursday with murder and aggravated assault — two days after a graphic video of the shooting of Arbery became public. The video of the fatal shooting thrust the case into the national spotlight, prompting widespread outrage and raising concerns about why it took law enforcement officials more than two months to make arrests in the killing.
English has received death threats since arrests were made in the case, his attorney said in an interview Monday night, speaking on behalf of her client.
Video from the day of Arbery's death, obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, shows a black man wearing a T-shirt and shorts walking up to a house under construction, entering and then leaving shortly after. Lawyers representing Arbery's family said in a Saturday statement that the security camera video proves Arbery did nothing wrong prior to the fatal encounter.
"Ahmaud did not take anything from the construction site," the family's lawyers said in a statement. "He did not cause any damage to the property. He remained for a brief period of time and was not instructed by anyone to leave but rather left on his own accord to continue his jog. Ahmaud's actions at this empty home under construction were in no way a felony under Georgia law."
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said that it was reviewing the video but added that the agency had seen it before arresting and charging Gregory and Travis McMichael. The McMichaels could not be reached for comment.
Graddy said her client wants to "correct the mistaken impression" that English had shared this video or any other information about what has occurred at the property with the McMichaels prior to their fatal encounter with Arbery or at all. English had only briefly met the younger McMichael once in 2019, when he came to the construction site to introduce himself.
English, a beekeeper, said he was working in Douglas, about 90 miles away from Brunswick, where he lives with his wife and two children, on February 23, unaware of the tragedy that was unfolding.
English got an alert on his phone that a video had been taken at the construction site, Graddy said. "He worked for another 20 minutes and then washed up," she said.
After he observed the video in the alert, he called a neighbor and learned Arbery had been killed that day, Graddy said.
In the months prior to February, a motion-activated camera had captured videos of someone inside the construction site a handful of times, Graddy said. The first time the camera captured someone in the house, English called a non-emergency police number and reported the unauthorized entries onto his property, Graddy said.
"He never used the word 'burglary,'" she said, adding that nothing has ever been stolen from or damaged at the property. "My client did not want people to come on to the property because it's just not safe."
English never shared any of this information with the McMichaels, whom he did not even know, according to his attorney.
"Even if there had been a robbery, however, the English family would not have wanted a vigilante response," Graddy said. "They would have entrusted the matter to law enforcement authorities."
Arbery's family says he was out jogging, while the McMichaels have said they thought he was a burglar, according to the police report from Glynn County. Gregory McMichael armed himself with a .357 Magnum and his son grabbed a shotgun after Gregory McMichael saw Arbery "hauling ass" down the street, the police report said. A third man, later identified as William Bryan, a neighbor, tried to block Arbery during the pursuit, according to the police report.
Gregory McMichael told police that he thought Arbery was a burglar who had recently been targeting the neighborhood. The McMichaels told police that when they caught up with Arbery, he attacked Travis McMichael, who fired his weapon in self-defense.
The Brunswick News, citing documents obtained through a public records request, reported that there had been just one confirmed burglary in the neighborhood from Jan. 1 to Feb. 23: the theft of a handgun from an unlocked truck parked outside Travis McMichael's house on Jan. 1.
Graddy, a native of South Georgia, said on May 6 that she emailed a letter to Thomas Durden, one of the prosecutors who had been assigned the case, and asked why the McMichaels had not been arrested. The email went unanswered, she said. Durden could not immediately be reached for comment.
English would visit the construction site regularly to check on the progress of the home. On one occasion, after Arbery's killing, Graddy said Gregory McMichael approached English at the construction site and inquired about obtaining surveillance videos. She said English did not entertain Gregory McMichael.
"My clients were not part of what the McMichaels told themselves to do," she said.
"If the McMichaels are going to justify what they did, they are going to have to look elsewhere for help," Graddy said.