Gregory McMichael, one of two suspects arrested in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, played a role in publicly releasing video of the Georgia shooting that sparked nationwide protests, NBC News confirmed Saturday.
Alan Tucker, an attorney in Brunswick, Georgia, told NBC News that McMichael wanted "the public to know the truth," and Tucker contacted a local radio DJ.
Tucker, who said he has known McMichael for nearly 30 years in a professional capacity, downloaded the video onto a thumb drive that McMichael “physically” delivered to the station, he said. Tucker did not say when he contacted the DJ nor when the video was delivered, but it became public about two weeks ago.
The news of McMichael’s involvement was first reported by Atlanta station WSB-TV.
“[Greg] wanted the public to know the truth," Tucker said in a text message to NBC News. "That he and his son were not white supremacists driving in a pick-up truck with a confederate flag in the back who shot a black man in the back because he was jogging in a white neighborhood.
“He hoped the public would see them trying to make a citizen’s arrest on a young man that was running from a home under construction – that he had been seen in at night on several occasions while he plundered around on the owner’s security camera.”
Arbery was shot to death on Feb. 23 in Brunswick — a coastal city about midway between Savannah, Georgia, and Jacksonville, Florida — after being followed by Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34, his son, in their pickup truck. The McMichaels are white and Arbery was black.
According to a police report, the senior McMichael told officers they pursued Arbery because they thought he was a burglary suspect. McMichael told officers Arbery “began to violently attack” Travis, who fired because the two “started fighting over the shotgun,” according to the police report.
Both McMichaels remain in jail on murder and aggravated assault charges. Father and son have separate legal teams, but both plan to request they be released on bond.
“The truth will reveal that this is not just another act of violent racism. Greg McMichael did not commit murder,” said Frank Hogue, one of Gregory McMichael’s defense attorneys, in a news conference this week. Attorneys for Travis McMichael promised “all of the facts will come out” in trial.
Elizabeth Graddy, an attorney for Larry English, the owner of the construction site where Arbery was seen on surveillance video moments before the shooting, said English received a text message in December 2019 from a Glynn County police officer regarding video of people on the property. Graddy shared the message with NBC News.
“Your neighbor at (redacted address) is Greg McMichael," the message reads. "Greg is retired Law Enforcement and also a Retired Investigator from the DA’s office. He said please call him day or night when you get action on your camera. His number is (redacted number).”
The Glynn County Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lee Merritt, an attorney for the Arbery family, called the text message “disturbing."
“If you take Gregory McMichael’s actions in releasing this video to the public with the knowledge that law enforcement told the homeowner to contact him if there was any issue, then you sort of begin to see that it’s possible that he believed that he was operating according to what police officers had given him the authority to do," Merritt said.
Merritt said the district attorney's office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation told his office they were unaware of the text message before this week. A GBI spokesperson declined to comment, citing an active case.