It’s not a secret that after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson, officials and the media were dead set on trying to prove that Brown was not an “innocent victim.” One way Brown’s character was assassinated was by saying that prior to being killed, the teen had been involved in a “strong-armed robbery” at a local store where he pushed a store clerk and stole a box of cigarillos.
To further push this narrative, police released surveillance video from the store that showed that a scuffle could have been possible, but a new documentary, Stranger Fruit, shows never-seen before footage of what happened in that store hours before Brown was killed and left in the street for hours.
According to the New York Times, the footage from the film, which debuted on Saturday at the SXSW festival in Austin, shows Brown entering Ferguson Market and Liquor shortly after 1 a.m. on the day he died. He approaches the counter, hands over what appears to be a bag, and subsequently takes a bag with cigarillos. After that, it appears that the teen walks toward the door, but then tosses the cigarillos back across the counter. He then leaves.
So what does this all mean?
Jason Pollock, the film’s director, says the new footage undermines the belief that Brown had committed a robbery when he came back to that same store eleven hours later. Pollack said he was tipped off about the footage when the St. Louis County Police Department briefly mentioned Mr. Brown’s early-morning visit to the store in a lengthy report on the case, The Times noted.
“They destroyed Michael’s character with the tape, and they didn’t show us what actually happened,” said Pollock. “So this shows [the police’s] intention to make him look bad. And shows suppression of evidence.”
He along with Brown’s mother also believe that the video shows that there was some type of agreement between Brown and the clerk.
“There was some type of exchange, for one thing, for another,” says Lesley McSpadden in the documentary.
Why wasn’t this footage released to the public like the latter video was?
According to Sgt. Shawn McGuire, a spokesman for the St. Louis County police, the earlier encounter had not been released because it was not relevant to the investigation. He also stressed that he couldn’t confirm whether or not the video was actually authentic.
Meanwhile, the store owners disagree with McSpadden and Pollock’s assessment of the interaction.
“There was no transaction,” says Jay Kanzler, a lawyer for the convenience store. “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.”
Sadly, this new footage doesn’t still answer the question of what really motivated Wilson to shoot Brown on August 9, 2014, who was acquitted of any wrong doing in the teen’s death.
However, as The Times, noted Brown’s parents have filed a federal lawsuit against Officer Wilson, the city of Ferguson and the former Ferguson police chief with a civil trial scheduled to start in 2018.