The recent “new” surveillance video, which has been published by documentary filmmaker Jason Pollock in his film “Stranger Fruit,” allegedly shows Michael Brown involved in a drug deal with store employees at the Ferguson Market hours before he was shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson. Pollock’s claim contradicts the police’s claim that Brown had committed a strong armed robbery at the Ferguson Market before encountering Officer Wilson.
Here are some important details to keep in mind when considering his new video footage. The surveillance footage of Michael Brown, which the filmmaker says shows the alleged drug deal occurred at 1:00 a.m. on August 9, 2014. The surveillance video that was released by law enforcement claiming to show Brown involved in a strong armed robbery for a box of cigarillos is from 11:51 a.m., almost 11 hours after the video released by Pollock was recorded.
Now, I happen to have the entire Department of Justice report on the criminal investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown. Last night I took some time to review that report, to see if there was anything relevant to this recent video release, within the D.O.J. report. Here is what I found:
The D.O.J. report provides the dispatch log for the events leading up to the shooting:
At 11:53 a.m. the 911 dispatcher, dispatches officers to a “stealing in progress” at the Ferguson Market.
At 11:56 a.m. Dispatch provides a description of two suspects, who stole a “whole box of Swisher cigars” and ran “towards the Quick-Trip.”
At 11:58 a.m. Officer Wilson, who was leaving the scene of a call involving a sick infant, asks radios to two Officers who are on scene at the Ferguson Market call, “Do you guys need me?” Wilson was referencing if the officers needed any other assistance to the theft call. The response by one of the officers is that the suspect “disappeared into the woodwork.”
At 12:00 p.m. Officer Wilson radios, “Put me on Canfield with two and send me another car.”
According to Wilson’s interview with the Department of Justice investigators, he says he first encountered Michael Brown and another male, because they were walking down the middle of the road, in which he told them to get out of the middle of the road. Wilson said he subsequently saw a box of cigarillos in Brown’s hand, and that is when he radioed in he was “with two” and to “send another car.”
The Department of Justice report further details the investigator's interview with the store clerk and his daughter who were working when Michael Brown entered the store as shown at 11:51 a.m. According to the report, the clerk and his daughter are of Indian descent, and the father “does not speak English well.” The daughter, however, gave SLCPD Detectives, FBI agents, and Federal Prosecutors jointly a statement that Brown had asked for the box of cigarillos, and when they were placed on the counter, he snatched that box, and then reached over the counter and took additional packages of cigarillos. According to the clerk’s daughter, she called 911 to report the robbery.
Additionally, the Department of Justice report provides the witness statements provided by the male who was with Michael Brown at the time he was in the Ferguson Market, and when he was shot and killed. The D.O.J. report redacts all witness names, and the male who was with Brown that morning is referred to as “Witness 101.” The following was published in the report: “Witness 101 explained that when they went to Ferguson Market, Brown stole cigarillos
from behind the counter as though he was entitled to them, and then subsequently shoved the store clerk. Witness 101 initially minimized these events when speaking with law enforcement, but then acknowledged to the county grand jury that Brown was surprisingly aggressive. Brown’s behavior caught Witness 101 off guard because it was uncharacteristic of Brown and contrary to Brown’s usual behavior. Witness 101 expected to encounter the police when they left Ferguson Market because he heard the clerk say he was going to call the police. Witness 101 described Brown’s behavior as “bold” when Brown openly carried the stolen cigarillos as they walked down Canfield Drive.”
Naturally, the entire 86 page Department of Justice report provides many other details involving the investigation of the shooting death of Michael Brown. However, these are the only details that are relevant to this recent surveillance video that was released for the documentary film. It is important to note that the Department of Justice concluded in their investigation that there was a connection between the Ferguson police culture towards community hostility. However, the D.O.J. did not find any evidence to substantiate the film maker’s theories that are presented in his film.
In effect, no evidence supports that anyone who was involved with the events immediately before Brown's death had any knowledge of any drug deals between Brown and employees of the store at 1 a.m. that day. Most importantly, the biggest contention with the shooting death of Michael Brown has nothing to do with what occurred at the store before his death. The outrage that followed Brown’s death had to do with the fact that he was unarmed when he was shot and killed by Officer Wilson. It is important to separate that the events at 1 a.m. or 11:51 a.m. are mutually exclusive from Brown’s shooting death.
Now, the reality does exist that Michael Brown could have been involved in some bartered agreement for drugs in exchange for cigarillo with employees of the store at 1 a.m. However, consequently, the employees working at 11:51 a.m. had no involvement or prior knowledge of the exchange. Again, this only means that the events in the early morning hours provide no relevance to the events that led up to Brown’s death.
Ultimately, the new surveillance video and the filmmaker’s accompanying theory appear to be sensationalized, most likely to generate interest in his film. People should be cautious to allow sensationalized, in effect, marketing to influence their emotions. In the end, what occurs when people become emotionally fixated on marketing tactics is the entire event gets diminished. In essence, the filmmaker isn’t selling truth or justice. Rather, he is selling a movie and part of that selling that movie is to make the people think that his film contains some new or explosive information that sheds new light on the entire Ferguson case. However, there is no real tangible evidence to support the movie provides any new “revelations” about this case.
In the end, whether you consider Brown’s death to be justified or unjustified at least try to ensure that your opinion is based on the facts of the case. My goal isn’t to try to sway anyone one way or another about the incident that has collectively simply become termed, “Ferguson.” Instead, the best thing that I can do is try to do whatever I can to ensure that events like those that happened in Ferguson do not happen again. At the end of the day, providing events like Ferguson don’t happen again, occur long before August 9, 2014, or Michael Brown ever walked into the Ferguson Market.