Newly surfaced evidence in the Michael Brown case is challenging previous claims that the 18-year-old robbed a convenience store hours before he was fatally shot by a white police officer.
Filmmaker Jason Pollock included the footage in his new documentary Strange Fruit, which premiered Saturday at SXSW. As pointed out by the New York Times, the previously unreleased video shows Brown entering the store at around 1 a.m. on Aug. 9, 2014, the day he died. Brown is shown approaching employees and exchange a small bag for another bag that contained cigarillos. The video then shows the man about to leave the store, before turning around and handing the bag back to employees. Pollock told the Times he believes Brown gave the products back to the employees for safe keeping, with the intention of picking them up later.
Following Brown’s death, police released a surveillance video that was captured about 10 hours of the initial incident. The video shows the 18-year-old entering the store, reaching over the counter and taking boxes of cigarillos before pushing employees out of the way so he can exit. Officers used this footage to suggest Brown had committed a strong armed robbery hours before officer Darren Wilson killed him. But Pollock said the unreleased video contradicts that story, and that Brown likely traded marijuana for the goods. He also insists police purposely withheld the evidence to make Brown appear more threatening.
“They destroyed Michael’s character with the tape, and they didn’t show us what actually happened,” Pollock told the Times. “So this shows their intention to make him look bad. And shows suppression of evidence.”
Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, said she also believes there was some sort of exchange between her son and store employees, and that he did not, in fact, rob the business as officers claim he did.
A lawyer for Ferguson Market and Liquor employees says the newly surfaced video had nothing to do with Brown’s second visit to the store.
“There was no transaction,” attorney Jay Kanzler said. “There was no understanding. No agreement. Those folks didn’t sell him cigarillos for pot. The reason he gave it back is he was walking out the door with unpaid merchandise and they wanted it back.”
Louis County Police Department spokesman Shawn McGuire told the Times the footage had not been released because it was irrelevant to the case.