After 18-year-old Michael Brown was gunned down and left to bake in the middle of a Ferguson, Mo., street on Aug. 9, 2014, police tried to smear his character by releasing a security video allegedly showing Brown participating in a “strong-armed robbery” by pushing a convenience store clerk and taking a box of cigarillos earlier that day.
Yet in a new documentary, Stranger Fruit, which debuted Saturday at the SXSW festival, a second video has emerged raising what the New York Times deems “new questions” about what happened in the hours before the fatal shooting of Brown by now-former Police Officer Darren Wilson, who faced no charges in his death, sparking massive protests in Ferguson and across the country.
The new footage shows Brown entering Ferguson Market and Liquor shortly after 1 a.m. on the day he died. He approaches the counter, hands over what looks to be a small bag, and takes a shopping bag filled with cigarillos. Brown is then seen shown walking toward the door with the merchandise, then turning around and handing the cigarillos back across the counter before exiting the store.
Jason Pollock, a documentary filmmaker who acquired the new footage, says the tape challenges the police narrative that Brown committed a strong-armed robbery when he returned to the store around noon that day.
Pollock believes that the new video shows Brown giving a small bag of marijuana to store employees and receiving cigarillos in return as part of a deal.
Brown’s mother speaks on it. She also questioned why that initial tape was released publicly while her son’s earlier visit to the store was not.
“There was some type of exchange, for one thing for another,” says Lesley McSpadden in the documentary.
The director says it is a clear suppression of evidence.
“They destroyed Michael’s character with the tape, and they didn’t show us what actually happened,” said Pollock, who reportedly spent more than two years in Ferguson conducting research for his documentary. “So this shows [the police’s] intention to make him look bad. And shows suppression of evidence.”
According to the New York Times, Sgt. Shawn McGuire, a spokesman for the St. Louis County police, said in an email Saturday that footage of the earlier encounter had not been released because it was not relevant to the investigation.
He added later that he could not confirm the video’s authenticity.
A lawyer for the convenience store and its employees disputes that version of events, for obvious reasons.
“There was no transaction,” says Jay Kanzler. “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.”
Pollack said that he was tipped off to the new video because the St. Louis County Police Department briefly mentioned Brown’s early-morning visit to the store in a lengthy report on the case.
Read more at the New York Times.