A new documentary with previously unreleased convenience store surveillance footage created new intrigue this weekend in the case of Michael Brown, the black 18-year-old whose death at the hands of a white police officer set off protests and riots in the town of Ferguson, Missouri, in the summer of 2014. But the store’s owners said they would release additional footage Monday that would challenge the film’s “edited version of events.”
In the aftermath of Brown’s death on Aug. 9, 2014, police released surveillance footage shot inside the Ferguson Market and Liquor that showed Brown shoving a store clerk and taking cigarillos just minutes before he was confronted and shot by officer Darren Wilson. But the documentary “Stranger Fruit,” which premiered this weekend at the South by Southwest festival in Texas, contains an unreleased recording shot inside the convenience store earlier that day.
The newly disclosed footage shows Brown handing a small item to one of the store’s clerks and then taking a shopping bag containing cigarillos. Brown starts to leave the store but then turns back toward the counter and gives the shopping bag back to the clerk before leaving.
The documentary frames the exchange as evidence of a transaction between the store’s clerks and Brown, perhaps a marijuana-for-cigarillos exchange, and paints the later altercation between Brown and the store’s clerks in a different light. The film suggests the shoving incident was not a robbery but instead a conflict that arose when the teenager went to retrieve the bag of cigarillos he had previously left at the store.
The documentary’s director told the New York Times that the new footage shows the Ferguson Police Department’s decision to only release the footage of the confrontation was an attempt to impugn Brown’s character.
“This shows their intention to make him look bad,” documentarian Jason Pollock told the Times. “And shows suppression of evidence.”
But an attorney for the Ferguson Market and Liquor owners said that there was no agreement between his clients and Brown, and that Brown returned the bag because he tried to leave the store without paying for its contents and was told to return the items by the store’s clerks.
Attorney Jay Kanzler told CNN the store would release a full surveillance video on Monday that would show the documentary used an “edited version of events.”
“My clients did nothing wrong,” Kanzler said. “They love the people of Ferguson and truly want to get on with their lives.”
On Sunday night, protests broke out at Ferguson Market and Liquor in response to the newly released footage. Shortly before midnight, 7 or 8 gunshots were heard near the market, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. There appeared to be no injuries. The Post-Dispatch also reported that someone stuffed a rag into a police car’s gas tank, but there was only minor damage.