Protesters shout in front of the Ferguson Police Headquarters.
The video you may have watched but don’t remember paints Michael Brown — the unarmed teen whose 2014 death sparked protests — as something of an aggressor. At first, he waits at a convenience store counter, hands behind his back. He seems to talk with the person behind the counter, then leans forward and appears to grab a box of cigarillos. When the person behind the counter walks around to confront him, Brown, 18, shoves him and walks out of the store. Brown would later be fatally shot by a police officer, his body would lay on the street for hours.
Now a documentary that premiered at South By Southwest this weekend is trying to put the old video into a new context. Stranger Fruit shows another video of Brown in that same store, but it has a very different story to tell.
The new video shows Brown at the Ferguson, Missouri convenience store during the early morning hours of the day he would be killed. He appears to exchange a small bag with cashiers for two boxes of cigarillos. Brown takes the bag of cigarillos from one of the men behind the counter, then heads for the door before stopping short. He turns back and gives the bag to the same man behind the counter, who appears to store it away. The documentary suggests Brown left the cigarillos until he could return to pick them up. The filmmaker, Jason Pollock, has suggested Brown was trading a bag of marijuana for the cigarillos, according to the Associated Press.
The police officer who killed Brown, Darren Wilson, was responding to a call from the convenience store about stolen cigarillos.
A lawyer for the convenience store doesn’t agree with the documentary’s conclusions about the video.
"There was no transaction," Jay Kanzler, the lawyer, told The New York Times. "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.”
St. Louis County police condemned the video, calling it heavily edited. Police also told the New York Times they did not release the video because it wasn’t relevant to the case.
That’s difficult to believe given the case was pulled apart from every angle. But no matter what this new evidence says about the moments before Brown encountered Police Officer Darren Wilson, it says little about what happened after.