Michael Brown Shooting: New Video Counters Police Narrative, Stirs Protests

Newly disclosed surveillance footage is raising questions about what happened in the hours before the Michael Brown shooting. The video purports to show Michael Brown exchanging marijuana for cigarillos with clerks at the Ferguson convenience store, which Missouri police claimed he robbed.

The new footage was featured in a documentary film “Stranger Fruit,” by filmmaker Jason Pollock, which debuted at the South by Southwest festival in Austin and examines Brown’s death from the family’s point of view. Pollock contends the video shows Brown did not rob the store before being stopped by police. The video may bring to light a misunderstanding that occurred between store clerks and debunk a key police narrative.

Just after 1 a.m., many hours before Brown and police faced off, Brown approached the clerks and placed a small bag on the counter. Two of the clerks examined it, smelled it, then gave Brown a bag of cigarillos. Brown takes the cigarillos, then turns around gives it back to the clerks before leaving.

“This is a shady store. We’ve asked a lot of people in this community. You can buy weed at the store,” Pollock said.

In an interview, alongside Brown’s father, Pollock said, “What this video shows is that (police) lied to the world about what happened. They wanted to make Mike look bad, so they put out half a video to destroy his character in his death.”

Pollack argues that the unreleased surveillance video shows Brown did not steal the cigarillos but retrieved them after he’d left them at the store earlier. Rather than a strong-arm robbery, Brown received cigarillos from store employees as part of a negotiated deal.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said Brown being in the store earlier that day was “news to me.” St. Louis County Police focused primarily on investigating the shooting, while Ferguson police were handling the incident at the store.

The lawyer for the convenience store disputes that the newly released footage provides new, relevant information. “There was no transaction,” Mr. 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.”

The Ferguson Police Department’s decision to release the store surveillance video was seen by many as a way to impugn Brown’s character and justify police use of force. Pollock, who spent two years investigating the film, supports that view. “They destroyed Michael’s character with the tape, and they didn’t show us what actually happened. So this shows their intention to make him look bad. And shows suppression of evidence.”

Brown’s parents filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Ferguson, the former police chief, and Officer Darren Wilson. The civil trial is scheduled to start next year.

About one hundred protesters gathered around the store Sunday night, forcing it to close.

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