(NEW YORK) — A little over two years after former police officer Darren Wilson was cleared of all civil rights violations following an investigation by the Department of Justice for the shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014, new footage released of the moments leading up to Brown’s fatal encounter with Wilson has thrown the narrative into a state of flux for some, calling into question law enforcement’s argument that Brown robbed the convenience store prior to the shooting.
Jason Pollock, one of the filmmakers behind Stranger Fruit, told The New York Times he believes the footage shows Brown trading a small amount of marijuana for a bag of cigarillos, or small cigars, at around 1 a.m. on Aug. 9, 2014.
The video, however, lacks clarity; we don’t see exactly what the filmmaker claims was exchanged in the video, but it clearly shows Brown then leaving behind the cigarillos.
Pollock told ABC News this morning that the video is proof that Brown did not rob the store, and that Brown had left the small cigars behind to be retrieved at a later time.
A previously released video shows Brown hours later at the store, his hands around a shopkeeper’s neck as he makes off with a carton of cigarillos.
“They wanted us to think Michael robbed the store because they needed us to think that Michael was aggressive. Michael was handed the bag in the video, the clerk puts it in a plastic bag and hands it over the counter to Michael Brown,” Pollock said. “That’s not stealing [from] the store.”
It is unclear how Pollock obtained the surveillance footage.
Andy Patel, a co-owner of the store, reaffirmed his version of events on Sunday by telling the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Brown “grabbed the cigarillos and stole them.” His lawyers dispute the narrative being told by the makers of Stranger Fruit.
Patel is the man who was grabbed and shoved by Brown in the previously released portion of the video recording that took place minutes before Brown’s fatal encounter with Wilson, who was not indicted.
St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch Monday called the footage “edited” but acknowledged that it was authentic.
“Contained in that was a very poorly edited snippet of a security video taken from the store in Ferguson, shortly before, about 11 hours before Michael Brown returned to the store and shortly before he was shot. That has generated some inquiries and questions from the public and the media regarding the content, the source, the origin of that particular video,” McCulloch said. “The video is indeed security footage from the market that night.”
McCulloch noted that the video had been in police possession for a long time, and was not kept secret.
“We have copies of the entire video. And I think that’s very important. No. 1, it’s documented in the report, so it’s not as though this was hidden away somewhere, as this fellow with his video project was trying to say, actually did say. It’s documented in the police report. If you look even at his pathetic video, it shows the police report where he got the information,” McCulloch said.
The video in its complete form show clerk putting the cigarillos back on the rack after taking them out of the bag. The video was deemed “neither relevant nor material” to the incident and not presented to the jury, which is why it was not made public.
St. Louis County police spokesman Sgt. Shawn McGuire said the department’s investigation is focused on the interaction between Brown and Wilson and not what happened in the store.
News of the video existence reopened old wounds among protesters who believe the shooting to be a violation of Brown’s civil rights, and sparked new protests in the St. Louis’ County-based city of Ferguson.
“People will come up with whatever narrative they want to come up with,” David Klinger, professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and a former officer of the LAPD, told ABC News. “Whether or not Brown was a drug dealer is absolutely irrelevant to [the shooting incident].”
ABC News contributor and former FBI agent, Steve Gomez, agreed with Klinger’s point of view.
“The video may call into question whether or not Brown paid for the cigarillos,” Gomez said. “But it doesn’t really have an impact on his interaction with Darren Wilson.”
But Jay Kanzler, the lawyer for the market, called the filmmakers’ project “shameful.” “He never talk to anyone in the market – or talked to me,” Kanzler said. “He took 20 seconds and added a wild story to it.”
“He owes an apology to the police officers who put their lives on the line.”
For Klinger, who believes that the evidence submitted by the Department of Justice clearing Wilson was sufficient, that portion of the video now made public holds little importance.
“It’s beyond me that people would think it changes anything important about the case,” Klinger said. “It’s in the realm of what people are calling ‘fake news.'”
A federal wrongful-death suit filed by Brown’s parents against Wilson, the city of Ferguson and the city’s former police chief, Thomas Jackson is pending.
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