A new documentary that premiered at SXSW Saturday (March 11) suggests Mike Brown did not rob a local convenience store moments before he was fatally shot by then-Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in August 2014 in Ferguson, Mo.
The documentary, “Stranger Fruit” by Jason Pollock, uses previously unseen surveillance footage from the store to assert that Brown’s altercation with store employees was instead a misunderstanding tied to an earlier transaction. According to Pollock, “the 18-year-old entered Ferguson Market and Liquor around 1 a.m. on August 9, 2014 and handed the cashier what looks like a small bag of marijuana. In return the clerk gives Brown two boxes of cigarillos, and after starting to leave with them, turns to the clerk to hold them for him,” Jason said in the documentary.
Brown went back to the store around 11:50 a.m. to get his items.
“Mike did not rob the store,” Pollock said.
“It was a misunderstanding,” Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, said in the documentary.
After Brown was shot by Darren Wilson later that day near Canfield Green Apartments, police released video of what they described as Brown strong arming his way out of the same store with cigarillos. The fatal encounter with Wilson soon followed.
A lawyer for the convenience store and its employees told The New York Times that the new footage is not related to Brown’s later visit and that they strongly dispute Pollock’s version of events.
“There was no transaction,” Jay Kanzler told The Times. “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.”
In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Saturday, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said “the fact that Brown was in the store earlier that day was news to me, but not surprising because the Ferguson Market was frequented by many in the neighborhood.” He added that the “St. Louis County Police primarily focused on investigating the shooting, while Ferguson police handled the incident at the store.”
Wilson, who claimed that he had been assaulted by Mr. Brown and feared for his life, was cleared of criminal wrongdoing by a county grand jury and federal civil rights investigators. He resigned from the Police Department.
Michael Brown’s parents have filed a federal lawsuit against Officer Wilson, the city of Ferguson and the former Ferguson police chief. A civil trial is scheduled to start next year.