Video poses new questions about 2014 Ferguson police shooting
Previously undisclosed video of Michael Brown, recorded hours before the unarmed black 18-year-old was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, has raised new questions about a suspected robbery that police said he committed in his final hours.
The footage shows Brown – whose death in 2014 prompted national protests and kindled a debate about how U.S. police treat minorities – at a convenience store the night before he was killed. It was unearthed by a documentary filmmaker, according to the New York Times.
Shortly after Brown’s death, local police had released security-camera video of Brown visiting the same store in the daytime, a few minutes before he was shot. That footage, which now appears to depict the second of two visits to the Ferguson Market and Liquor store by Brown within a span of a few hours, showed Brown pushing a worker before walking out with cigarillos in an apparent robbery.
Brown’s family and protesters had criticized the release of the video as an effort to demonize the teenager.
Witnesses have given conflicting accounts of Brown’s deadly encounter a short time later with police officer Darren Wilson. Local and federal investigations cleared Wilson of criminal wrongdoing.
The new video, which appears in the documentary “Stranger Fruit,” an extract of which was published by the Times, shows Brown in an earlier, seemingly more amicable exchange.
It shows Brown giving store employees what appears to be a small bag, the contents of which the staff pass around and sniff. One employee gives Brown two boxes of cigarillos in a carrier bag.
Brown takes a few steps away before turning back and handing the bag back to an employee who appears to stash it behind the counter.
Jason Pollock, the documentary filmmaker, said the video shows Brown exchanging marijuana for cigarillos and undermines the police account that Brown may have robbed the store.
“Mike traded the store a little bag of weed and got two boxes of cigarillos in return,” Pollock says in the documentary. “He left his items at the store and he went back the next day to pick them up. Mike did not rob the store.”
Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, also appears in the documentary, saying, “There was some type of exchange, for one thing, for another.”
Jay Kanzler, a lawyer for the convenience store, was quoted by the Times as disputing the filmmaker’s explanation, saying the store did not exchange anything with Brown.
“The reason he gave it back is he was walking out the door with unpaid merchandise and they wanted it back,” Kanzler was quoted as saying. He did not respond to a request for comment.
A crowd of about 100 protesters, who saw the video as exonerating Brown, gathered on Sunday night at the convenience store which was protected by a couple of hundred police officers.
The protest was largely peaceful, although police were seen arresting at least two people, and an unknown person fired about half a dozen bullets into the air towards the end of the protest.
(Reporting by Lawrence Bryant in Ferguson and Jonathan Allen in New York; Writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Bernadette Baum)