14.3.17

CCTV: Michael Brown,18, 'Robbery' was a DRUG DEAL went wrong




In the two and a half years since Michael Brown, a black 18-year-old, was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., the explosive case has been parsed in intricate detail. Witnesses offered varying descriptions of the fatal encounter. Investigators examined bloodstain evidence on the street where Mr. Brown died. And the police released a security video from a nearby store that showed Mr. Brown pushing a worker and taking cigarillos minutes before the shooting. But a second, previously unreported video from that same convenience store included in a new documentary is raising new questions about what happened in the hours before the shooting on Aug. 9, 2014.


The footage shows Mr. Brown entering the store, Ferguson Market and Liquor, shortly after 1 a.m. on the day he died. He approaches the counter, hands over an item that appears to be a small bag and takes a shopping sack filled with cigarillos. Mr. Brown is shown walking toward the door with the sack, then turning around and handing the cigarillos back across the counter before exiting. Jason Pollock, a documentary filmmaker who acquired the new tape, says the footage challenges the police narrative that Mr. Brown committed a strong-armed robbery when he returned to the store around noon that day. Instead, Mr. Pollock believes that the new video shows Mr. Brown giving a small bag of marijuana to store employees and receiving cigarillos in return as part of a negotiated deal. Mr. Pollock said Mr. Brown left the cigarillos behind the counter for safekeeping. “There was some type of exchange, for one thing, for another,” Lesley McSpadden, Mr. Brown’s mother, says in Mr. Pollock’s documentary, “Stranger Fruit,” which premiered Saturday at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Tex., and examines the shooting from the family’s perspective.

But Jay Kanzler, a lawyer for the convenience store and its employees, strongly disputes that version of events, and said the new footage is unrelated to Mr. Brown’s later visit to the store. “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.” Regardless of what happened at the store in the early-morning hours, the new security footage does not resolve long-simmering questions about Mr. Brown’s encounter with Officer Darren Wilson along a Ferguson street that day.

Officer Wilson, who claimed that he feared for his life and had been assaulted by Mr. Brown, was cleared of criminal wrongdoing by a county grand jury and federal civil rights investigators. He resigned from the Police Department. Mr. Brown’s death and the sometimes violent protests that followed raised broad questions about how police officers treat black people, both in the St. Louis area and across the country, and many remain steadfast in their belief that Mr. Brown was murdered. Protesters were particularly offended by the Ferguson Police Department’s decision to release the video that showed Mr. Brown shoving the store clerk, perceiving it as part of an effort to defame and demonize the young man. Ms. McSpadden, who also spells her first name as Lezley, questioned why that tape was released publicly while her son’s earlier visit to the store had been kept quiet. “They destroyed Michael’s character with the tape, and they didn’t show us what actually happened,” said Mr. Pollock, who spent more than two years in Ferguson conducting research for his documentary, and who questions the decision to not charge Officer Wilson.

“So this shows their intention to make him look bad. And shows suppression of evidence.” The St. Louis County Police Department briefly mentioned Mr. Brown’s early-morning visit to the store in a lengthy report on the case, which tipped Mr. Pollock off to the existence of an additional video. Sgt. Shawn McGuire, a spokesman for the county police, said in an email on Saturday that footage of the earlier encounter had not been released because it was not relevant to the investigation. He added later that he could not confirm the video’s authenticity.image Spokesmen for the city of Ferguson and the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Saturday. Mr. 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.

MIDUFINGA

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