Stranger Fruit, a damning documentary recounting the events that led to protests and rioting in Ferguson in 2014 over the shooting death of Michael Brown, spurred more protests in the Missouri city Sunday after unseen surveillance footage in the film reveals Brown had entered a convenience store the night before he was killed and made some kind of exchange with the clerks.
The filmmakers suggest that Brown exchanged a small bag of marijuana for two boxes of cigarillos.
But police have long maintained that Brown stole the boxes of cigarillos the morning he was killed, basing their allegations on a surveillance video of Brown walking out the store with the bag of cigarillos, then pushing the store owner away as he walked out.
The newly-released video shows Brown walk away from the counter with the bag of cigarillos ten hours earlier after making the exchange,, then walking back to the counter and handing the bag back to the clerk, who then placed it behind the counter.
Filmmaker Jason Pollock suggest Brown had returned to the store the following morning to retrieve the tobacco products after handing the bag back to the clerk for safekeeping the night before.
The film made its debut Saturday night at the SXSW film festival in Austin. The premiere was attended by Brown’s mother, Lezley McSpadden.
Although the newly surfaced footage disputes the original police narrative that Brown had strong-armed the cigarillos, which is what led to Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson confronting him on the street before shooting him to death, it was suppressed by St. Louis County police as evidence presented before the grand jury that decided Wilson was justified in shooting Brown.
The clip suggests, instead of barging in to commit strong-armed robbery later that day, he’d actually came back to retrieve the box of cigars the clerks had obviously given him in exchange for whatever was in the bag.
“Mike did not rob the store,” Pollock narrates in the film.
Clerks can be seen taking the baggie from Brown and passing it around to smell the contents inside, which is why Pollock believes its contents was marijuana.
After passing the small baggie around, the clerks can be seen bagging up the cigarillos, then handing over the bag to Brown who takes the bag, walks a few feet towards the door, then walks back to the counter and hands it back to the clerks, who then place it behind the counter.
“The next day, Brown goes back to the store, with his hands politely behind his back, to get his stuff,” Pollock explains.
“St. Louis County has written documentation that we found that shows they saw the 1:13 a.m. video tape, but they leave out what really happened that night in the report,” Pollock continues narrating. “Mike traded the store a little bag of weed and got two little boxes in return.”
Brown had just graduated high school and had plans to head off to college before he and a friend were detained by Wilson, who said he feared for his life before squeezing off a dozen rounds aimed at Brown, including a fatal shot to head.
“I was surprised to hear that two years later there was a video. What you’re going to see on this video is what they didn’t show us what happened that clarifies there was an understanding. And that’s what you’re going to see in this video,” Lezley McSpadden, who has questioned St. Louis County police’s version of events all along, commented about the video.
According to the New York Times, Pollock learned of the additional video after reading a lengthy report by the St. Louis County Police Department that made a brief mention about Brown’s visit to the store earlier that morning.
According to the Times, Pollock spent two years conducting research for the documentary and remains skeptical about the reasons behind not charging Darren Wilson with a crime.
A civil rights lawsuit has been filed against the City of Ferguson, the Ferguson Police Chief and officer Darren Wilson on behalf of the Brown family.
The trial is expected to begin next year.
The new footage sparked protests Sunday night in Ferguson where more than 100 people stood outside the store demonstrating.
Jay Kanzler, attorney for Ferguson Market & Liquor store, said the clip used in the film was edited to promote the agenda of the filmmakers.
He said he will release the full video today that shows the clerks rejecting a bag of marijuana.
The trailer of the film is posted below along with the footage showing Brown walking out the store the morning of his death.