A never-before-seen video sheds new light on the Michael Brown case and suggests he did not rob a convenience store as had previously been thought, but instead had been involved in a drug deal with the clerks.
Filmmaker Jason Pollock obtained a copy of the clip and shared it with the New York Times Saturday as part of a preview for his new documentary about the case, titled Stranger Fruit.
The video shows Brown 11 hours before he was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The 18-year-old can be seen visiting the same convenience store, Ferguson Market and Liquor, around 1am on the day he later died.
County police spokesman Sergeant Shawn McGuire told the newspaper the video hadn’t been released until now because the footage was not relevant to the investigation.
McGuire later told the DailyMail.com: ‘The incident is still irrelevant to our investigation because our department investigated the encounter between Michael brown and Darren Wilson.’
Brown appears to be giving a small bag, which according to Pollock contained marijuana, to the employees, who in turn give him two boxes of cigarillos. The teenager starts to walk away with the cigarillos inside a bag, but comes back and gives them back to one of the clerks, who puts the bag behind the counter.
The implication behind the video, according to Pollock and to Brown’s mother, is that there was a previous understanding between Brown and the clerks when the teenager later came back to the store – and that he did not steal the cigarillos, but obtained them through a negotiated deal.
‘I was surprised to hear that two years later, there was a video,’ Brown’s mother Lesley McSpadden told Pollock in his documentary, which aired Saturday at SXSW.
‘What you’re going to see on this video is what they didn’t show us happened, that clarifies that there was an understanding.’
‘There was some type of exchange, for one thing, for another,’ McSpadden added.
Pollock, who has earned praise from Michael Moore for his documentary, is now challenging the police’s account of the events that unfolded prior to Brown’s shooting.
Lawyers for the convenience store and its employees, however, told the New York Times there was no deal with Brown and denied the filmmaker’s account.
‘There was no transaction,’ Jay Kanzler told the newspaper. ‘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.’
An autopsy showed that Brown had THC, an active ingredient of marijuana, in his system when he died.
Authorities did not release the video of Brown’s previous visit to the store but the Ferguson Police Department did publish a clip of the teenager shoving one of the employees, which some of the many protesters who rallied after his death saw as an attempt to tame the young man’s image.
‘They destroyed Michael’s character with the tape, and they didn’t show us what actually happened,’ Pollock told the New York Times. ‘So this shows their intention to make him look bad. And shows suppression of evidence.’
The filmmaker, who worked on his documentary for two years, intends to tell what he sees as the true story behind Brown’s death.
Officer Darren Wilson, who fatally shot the teen, was not indicted. A grand jury exonerated him of any criminal wrongdoing. The US Department Of Justice later said in a report that Wilson hadn’t willfully violated Brown’s civil rights.
Brown’s death was followed by days of unrest in Ferguson and nationwide protests. Another report by the US Department Of Justice painted the town as rooted in systemic racism, with authorities disproportionately arresting and fining black residents.
Pollock was tipped off to the existence of another video of Brown because of a police report that made a brief mention of his earlier trip to the convenience store.
‘We had to do this so that people understood what really happened,’ Pollock told reporters at SXSW.
‘Because everyone still thinks all these ridiculous things about him, and that he was a thug. He was not a thug.’
Pollock pointed out that Brown had just graduated high school in a district with historically low graduation rates.
‘That means he was a rock star and he beat all the odds and was murdered eight days after his graduation.’
The DailyMail.com has reached out to the Ferguson Police Department for comment.