UPDATES with man charged with trying to burn police car, mention of surveillance video in county police report
FERGUSON • An attorney representing Ferguson Market & Liquor said Sunday night that a video clip highlighted in a new documentary showed Michael Brown in the store early the morning before he was fatally shot by a police officer, but said that it had been edited.
The attorney said the documentary falsely implied there was an exchange of marijuana for store merchandise. He pledged to release video of the interaction in full Monday.
Word of the new video drew a group of protesters that grew to about 100 Sunday night. Eventually the market closed, and police cleared the parking lot.
Shortly before midnight, 7 or 8 shots were heard from an area across the street from the market. There appeared to be no injuries. Someone stuffed a rag in the gas tank of a police car, but the damage was minor.
Henry L. Stokes, 45, of the 1500 block of Haviland Drive of Bellefontaine Neighbors, was charged with felony counts of attempting to cause catastrophe and resisting arrest. Bail was set at $25,000.
During the protest, police say Stokes stuffed a napkin in the gas tank opening of a St. Louis County police car and tried to ignite it with a cigarette lighter.
A Ferguson police officer suffered a broken nose when a woman punched him in the face as he tried to make an arrest, police said.
Chief Delrish Moss said the officer was trying to arrest a man on the parking lot around 10 p.m. when he was injured.
The documentary theorizes that Brown had an arrangement with employees to exchange store merchandise for marijuana, and that footage released by police in the days after the shooting shows the second part of such an exchange, not Brown robbing the store.
Ferguson Market attorney Jay Kanzler, who spoke with a group of angry protesters outside the market Sunday night, said the newly surfaced surveillance video of Brown visiting the store about 1 a.m. had long been in the hands of authorities and Brown’s family.
There was no exchange of drugs for anything from the store, Kanzler said. The footage in the documentary does show Brown putting what appears to be marijuana on the counter at the shop, but it has been edited to cut out Ferguson Market employees throwing back the bag, Kanzler said.
“The video has been out there,” Kanzler said, alluding to multiple people he said had seen it, including lawyers, prosecutors and Brown’s family. “This isn’t new.”
He later retreated into the store after protesters started swearing at him. Not long after, police arrested several protesters.
The protest Sunday at the market on West Florissant Avenue came after the documentary, “Stranger Fruit,” premiered Saturday at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas. The film highlights surveillance footage showing Brown visiting the store about 1 a.m. on Aug. 9, 2014. That was about 11 hours before he returned to the store in what has been portrayed as a strong-arm robbery.
Brown was fatally shot in a confrontation with a Ferguson police officer just after that second visit to the store.
Filmmaker Jason Pollock argues that Brown exchanged a small amount of marijuana with store clerks for two boxes of cigarillos in that first, early morning visit to the store, according to a clip of the documentary included in a story by the New York Times. He suggests Brown left the merchandise at the store to retrieve at a later point, and asserts that the video footage of Brown in the store later in the day shows not a robbery but rather Brown picking up the merchandise.
“Mike did not rob the store,” says the film narrator.
Ferguson Market co-owner And Patel said Sunday that he was not at the store at the time of Brown’s 1 a.m. visit and was unaware of any arrangement between his employees and Brown. But Patel, 59, re-asserted that Brown robbed the store of a package of cigarillos in the second visit to the store just before noon.
Patel said Brown had “grabbed the cigarillos and stole them.”
Video footage of that incident was released by police days after Brown was killed. The video shows Brown strong-arming his way out of the store with the cigarillos. Brown is shown grabbing and shoving Patel in that video, recorded minutes before Brown’s fatal encounter with then-Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson on a street in the nearby Canfield Green Apartment Complex.
Pollock questions why only the second tape was released publicly by police in the aftermath of the shooting.
“They destroyed Michael’s character with the tape, and they didn’t show us what actually happened,” Pollock told the Times.
It’s unclear from the footage what’s contained in the small package that Brown handed to store clerks, but the footage appears to show clerks holding the contents to their noses to smell.
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar and former Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson told the Post-Dispatch Saturday that they hadn’t seen the video.
But the earlier visit by Brown and the video are mentioned in parts of the St. Louis County police report released by Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch after the grand jury's decision in November 2014.
The report notes that at 1:13 a.m., a four-door passenger vehicle parks in front of the business, and black man, presumably Brown, enters the store, alone, and walks to the refrigerated section and "appears to select several items," according to the report.
"He approaches the counter, where he appears to put the items on the counter and have a conversation with the two employees behind the counter. At one point, he pulls an item out of his pocket and tosses it onto the counter. One of the employees picks the item up, examines it and places back on the counter. The individual in the red baseball hat then takes a white plastic bag off of the counter, starts to walk away, returns to the counter, leaves the bag and exits the business," the report states.
Pollock was alerted to the existence of the surveillance when he saw Brown’s earlier visit to the store mentioned in police records, according to the New York Times. Pollock later obtained the footage, though it’s unclear how.
Business was brisk outside the market on Sunday with a steady stream of customers coming and going. Numerous customers said they were unaware of the newly released video.
Protesters arrived in the evening and stood outside with signs. Someone used chalk to write “Justice for Mike Brown” on the parking lot.
Ferguson and later St. Louis County police arrived on the scene to monitor the protest, which grew more heated later in the night. Police and protesters ducked behind cars when the shots rang out. West Florissant was closed for a time as police investigated the gunfire.
Nancy Cambria • 314-340-8238
@nanecam on Twitter