The new documentary Stranger Fruit includes previously unseen video footage of St. Louis teenager Michael Brown just hours before he was shot to death by police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014.
In the surveillance video, Brown is seen at Ferguson Market and Liquor in the early morning hours of Aug. 9, 2014, where he seems to trade a small bag of weed for two boxes of cigarillos. Hours later, Brown returned to the market, where — in previously released video footage — he appeared to steal the boxes of cigarillos. Stranger Fruit purports that Brown wasn’t robbing the store but rather fetching his own property.
Speaking at the premiere of Stranger Fruit during the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, director Jason Pollock criticized the media for not pushing hard enough to secure the tape, which he found by searching through case records. (Per the film, “St. Louis County has written documentation of the video but does not describe what happened.”)
“Today is an historic day because you are the first people to see that Mike did not rob the store,” Pollock said. “That video, that you saw for the first time, is going to go on the internet now and break it. Hopefully. We can all share it and talk about it now. I feel a lot of relief that I can. I have been protecting it so it came out correctly within the context of the facts of the case. And it wasn’t bastardized by our media. But it does prove the cover-up. Because they had that video the whole time and they knew Mike didn’t steal anything from that store, and they told the whole world he was a robber right after they murdered him. Today is the day we get to start fighting back with the actual facts of this case. Because our media failed us. I’m a college dropout. Why didn’t anybody do this?”
Despite the new video footage and what it might reveal about Brown’s alleged robbery, a lawyer for the convenience story told the New York Times that two Aug. 9 incidents were not related.
“There was no transaction,” Jay Kanzler said. “There was no understanding. No agreement. 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.”
A spokesperson for the St. Louis County Police Department told the Times the video was not released because it didn’t bear relevance to the case.
Pollock and Brown’s mother, Lezley McSpadden, appeared before the premiere of Stranger Fruit, an emotional film that takes a close look at the facts in the case of Brown’s death. According to Pollock, the Ferguson Police Department and St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office “did not want us talking about what is in this movie. They did not want the media talking about, that’s why they didn’t find it. But we did.”
McSpadden received a standing ovation before the screening on Saturday, which began with a moment of silence for her son. Afterward, she spoke about what led her to become a leader in the fight to
“That was my first child. My first-born son. It hurt me to watch him learn how to walk and ride a bike and fall and hurt himself during those times. So to get to the scene and know that my son would never get up and walk again has driven me to this point,” she said. “I do have three other children, one being a 12-year-old son. If I don’t fight for him, nobody is. I’m his mother. I carried him and he will forever be with me. Even if we get a little bit of justice that’s still not enough for me. This should have never happened, and the truth is what keeps me going and I want everyone to know the truth, and it’s brought me here and to this and we have much more to reveal.”