- Matthew Albenze, a witness not employed by the police was first to give evidence in the murder trial against Travis McMichael (father and son) and William “Roddie Bryan (neighbor).
- Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents Arbery’s father, spoke outside the Georgia courthouse, calling it “concerning” that the jury doesn’t reflect the diversity of the county.
BRUNSWICK, Ga. — A man who called police to report Ahmaud Arbery inside a house under construction testified Wednesday, giving jurors a new Perspective of what occurred moments before Arbery, who was pursued by three men and shot to death.
Matthew Albenze is a Brunswick resident who lived in Satilla Shores for over 30 years. He said that he heard gunshots and saw a “shocking” scene where Arbery was lying on the roadway.
Albenze is first witness to not be a police officer in murder trial for father Gregory McMichael, son Travis McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan. Bryan caught the event on cellphone video after Travis McMichael killed Arbery from close range in February 2020.
Albenze said he was splitting wood in his front yard early last year when he saw a stranger standing in front of a neighbor’s house under construction. Albenze claimed that Larry English had shown him video footage of someone walking through the construction site. Albenze believes it was the same man.
Albenze stated, “He was simply standing there looking around.”
Ahmaud Arbery:Greg McMichael didn’t know if Arbery had a gun, but ‘I don’t take any chances,’ he told police
Albenze said he went into his house, grabbed his phone and a pistol, and came back outside. That’s when he saw the man inside the siteand called the police nonemergency number. He testified he didn’t call 911 because he “did not see an emergency.”
Albenze’s telephone call was played in court by prosecution on Wednesday. An operator can be heard asking Albenze if the man was breaking into the house, and Albenze can be heard telling the operator that the man was not breaking in.
“No, it’s all open,” Albenze said.
The operator asks: “OK, what is he doing?”
“He’s running down the street,” Albenze says.
He added: “I only need to know where he was going wrong.” He was he only on the premises?
Albenze replies: “He has been captured on camera many times before night. This is a constant thing.”
Albenze stated that he didn’t know the reason Arbery began running. Albenze also stated that he did not know why Arbery started running.They did not contact the McMichaels nor call them. The McMichaels jumped in a truck to pursue Arbery.
Albenze reported three gunshots hearing in his ears, and said, “In a couple of minutes, I heard guns.”
Albenze told the court he rode his bicycle down the street to see what happened and came upon Arbery’s body, a police car and Travis and Gregory McMichael.
“I stopped, and I went home. “It was a very shocking scene,” said Albenze.
Albenze’s motivation for calling police was questioned by the defense during cross-examination. Albenze stated that he was a member of a local Facebook group, where people posted about the property crime in their area.
When Albenze was asked if he is concerned about Satilla Shores property thefts, he replied, “Ofcourse. … It’s our home.” Albenze said he was also aware of car break-ins in the neighborhood.
“I did not hit him.” “I wish I had,” William Bryan – Roddie – told police.
Stephan Lowrey was a Glynn County former police officer and he testified about Bryan for a large portion of the afternoon.
Bryan said to the officer that his truck was angled at Arbery several times, and that he tried to steer him from the road. Prosecutors read the transcript from Bryan’s interview to Bryan aloud.
According to the transcript, Bryan said he believed Arbery was trying to get into his truck at one point during the chase, and the officer later found fingerprints and white fibers on the driver’s side door of the vehicle.
“But I didn’t hit him,” Bryan told the officer. Bryan replied, “I wish I had,” and suggested that Bryan might have taken him out instead of getting him shot.
Interrogated during lengthy cross-examination, Arbery was Black when he said that the shooting could have been related to it.He said “No.”
Lowrey also agreed with a defense attorney that if he believed Bryan deliberately attacked Arbery or committed a felony like aggravated assault with a motor vehicle, he would have read him his Miranda rights during the interview.
“That wasn’t the way I interpreted it at the time, though,” the officer said.
Earlier Wednesday, Investigator Roderic Nohilly with the Glynn County Police Department told prosecutors he spoke briefly to Gregory McMichael after the shooting, with McMichael describing Arbery as being “trapped like a rat.”
McMichael stated that Arbery intended to take the gun and possibly shoot Travis. Nohilly said McMichael has been a professional friend of McMichael since at least 16 year.
Witness Kellie Parr, who grew up in a house near where Arbery was shot, testified she had been visiting her parents in late December or early January when she drove by a house under construction and saw a tall Black man standing in the doorframe.
Parr said she wondered what the man was doing there but thought to herself, “No Kellie, don’t be racist.” She stated that she continued driving.
Cara Richardson (director of the 911 call center) was the last witness. While she was present, the prosecution played several 911 calls by Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael. Richardson, during cross-examination by the defense, stated that she did not know of any calls to police officers’ personal numbers.
Ben Crump, Rev. Concerns about Al Sharpton’s predominantly jury approach to justice
The trial has drawn scrutiny over the nearly all-white jury considering charges against the three white men accused of killing Ahmaud, who was Black. Several public figures have called Arbery’s killing a “lynching,” and Judge Timothy Walmsley has acknowledged the “racial overtones” of the case.
The Rev. Al Sharpton and civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents Arbery’s father, were in the courtroom Wednesday. As Nohilly testified, Crump spoke outside the courthouse, calling it “concerning” that the jury doesn’t reflect the diversity of the county.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Brunswick has more than 55% Black residents and Glynn County more than 26% are Black. The jury includes one Black member.
Who is on the Jury? Let’s find out what we know so far about them
While jurors are told to follow evidence and the law as instructed by the court, Crump said they are told they can use their life experiences and perspectives.
Ahmaud’s life experience is only understood when they can do this. His family background His cultural background? Crump was curious. “Or will they be more akin to the perspective and background of the killers of Ahmaud Arbery? It is concerning and we have to call out this intellectual justification of discrimination of our entire legal system.”
Sharpton, who said he was invited to Brunswick by Arbery’s mother and father, Wanda Cooper-Jones and Marcus Arbery, led Arbery’s family and supporters in a prayer vigil.
“I didn’t want to just pray with the family in Savannah or put them on TV, I wanted to sit with them today with the trial,” said Sharpton, who called Arbery’s killing “a lynching in the 21st century.”
Sharpton also raised concerns about the jury failing to reflect Glynn County’s population, but said he is encouraged by knowing that some white people in Brunswick have spoken out against the defendants’ actions.
It is not confined to race. There are white people who see this as disgraceful and don’t want their town known for this,” he said.