GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. — An officer's testimony Friday in the trial of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery revealed there had been a known break-in with a white suspect just down the street from where he died, weeks before his death.
The incident happened in the Satilla Shores neighborhood where father and son Greg and Travis McMichael began chasing after Arbery on Feb. 23, 2020, with Travis eventually shooting and killing him in a struggle.
The testimony on the morning of the trial's sixth day centered around bodycam footage from roughly two weeks prior, on Feb. 11.
On that day, Travis McMichael called police claiming to see a man, now believed to be Arbery, outside an unfinished home under construction in the neighborhood which is at the center of much of the case.
The owner of the home, Larry English, was seen testifying in a previously recorded deposition in court on Thursday.
Defense attorneys have focused on Arbery allegedly being seen on English's surveillance videos entering onto the property a number of times in the months leading up to his death and becoming in the minds of some neighbors - including the men accused of murder in the trial - a "suspect" in break-ins and thefts around the neighborhood.
They've argued the neighborhood was "on edge" at the time Arbery was chased down and ultimately killed.
Bodycam video from Glynn County officer Robert Rash, who was frequently called by English over intrusions onto his property, showed by the time of Feb. 11 there was a known suspect - who clearly was not Arbery - in at least one neighborhood break-in.
While investigating Travis' call of supposedly seeing Arbery on Feb. 11, Officer Rash told the McMichaels: "Now we did have - I took a report down the road here, the house at the corner, the guy with the Jeep and all - he had some stuff stolen, some guns stolen, but we got on video the car that people come in and stole them, they were from another neighborhood."
Regarding Arbery, he told the McMichaels English "hasn't seen him actually take anything" any of the few times he was recorded wandering around on the property.
They discussed "trespassing" and "loitering or prowling" as what he could possibly be suspected of.
In testimony, Rash then told the court he had responded about two months before - on Dec. 7, 2020 - to an entering auto call at the neighboring house.
"Did they have video from the front of their house?" prosecutor Linda Dunikoski asked the officer.
"And did you watch that video?"
"And what was the person who went into their Jeep and stole their guns? White, Black, Hispanic, Asian?"
"Based on the video it appeared to be a white male."
Under cross-examination, Travis McMichael's defense attorney countered with a line of questioning to establish the idea that the concerned neighbors - the McMichaels and others, such as Diego Perez and Matt Albenze - had a legitimate pretext to eventually pursue a citizen's arrest.
He also laid the argument that the neighbors had the implicit blessing from actual law enforcement authorities to be acting in a de facto police capacity.
"You're okay with that they're out there?" attorney Robert Rubin asked Rash.
"Didn't go tell (Travis) to put his gun up, tell him to go home. Didn't tell Greg to go home. Didn't tell Diego to go home. They're out there keeping their eyes out, assisting you?"
"You're okay with that?"
Prosecutors have targeted this line of argument, preemptively asking Rash about it before cross-examination.
In talking about a conversation Rash had with Greg McMichael - a former officer and investigator in the local district attorney's office - Dunikoski asked: "Did you deputize Greg?"
"Did you give him any authority to act as a police officer?"
His goal in looping in Greg McMichael about things, Rash said, was to utilize his experience to help inform any kind of future law enforcement response.
"Greg to my knowledge had 30-plus years of law enforcement experience. Who else to be an expert witness, call 911? You know I've watched shows, I've seen things where you have 10 people witness a crime and they have 10 different stories," Rash said. "Greg has training and experience, in my opinion would be an expert witness, to be on 911 - 'He's running north, south, this, that.' He would know the pertinent information once officers arrive on scene to catch the trespasser."
"You wanted him to be a witness?" Dunikoski asked.
Rubin ended his questioning by reasserting the idea the neighbors' intervention might have been necessary - that despite multiple calls to the property, police had never encountered Arbery before he left the neighborhood.
"Never able to catch him?"
"Despite being out there within minutes, right?"
"And when seconds count, sometimes minutes don't work," Rubin said, echoing his opening statement.
"True," Rash responded.
Dunikoski, going back before the witness after the defense's turn, reiterated her earlier questioning.
"Was it your intent to deputize Greg McMichael or Travis McMichael?"
"What did you want them to be?"
His intent, the officer testified, was to find and identify Arbery and tell him not to come back on the property.