Owner of house Ahmaud Arbery purportedly entered before fatal shooting is getting death threats

Janelle Griffith

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.

IMAGE: Ahmaud Arbery (Courtesy of family)

His dream home is under construction in Brunswick, Georgia. But English said it is unlikely that he and his family will ever move in 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, is purported to have 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 Thursday with murder and aggravated assault two days after a graphic video of the shooting became public. The video 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.

English has received death threats since the arrests, his attorney said in an interview Monday night, speaking on behalf of her client. She said English and his wife are "heartsick" for Arbery's parents.

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 statement Saturday that the security camera video proves Arbery did nothing wrong.

"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 it was reviewing the video but added that it 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 the video or any other information about what had occurred at the property with the McMichaels before the shooting or at all. English had only briefly met the younger McMichael once in 2019, when he went to the construction site to introduce himself, Graddy said.

English, a beekeeper, said he was working in Douglas, about 90 miles from Brunswick, where he lives with his wife and two children, on Feb. 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 watched the video in the alert, he called a neighbor and learned that Arbery had been killed that day, Graddy said. English gave the video to Glynn County police soon after the shooting, Graddy said.

In the months before February, a motion-activated camera had captured videos of someone inside the construction site a handful of times, Graddy said. The first time, English called a non-emergency police number and reported the unauthorized entry, 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 Glynn County police report. 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.

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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 she emailed a letter last Wednesday to Thomas Durden, one of the prosecutors who had been assigned the case, asking why the McMichaels had not been arrested. The email went unanswered, she said. Durden could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday at numbers listed for him.

English would visit the construction site regularly to check on the progress of the home. Graddy said that once, about two weeks ago, Gregory McMichael approached English at the 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," Graddy said.

"If the McMichaels are going to justify what they did, they are going to have to look elsewhere for help," she said.