It’s interesting that my last article on the Michael Brown case was posted on March 3, 2016. A year later, the racial pot is once again being stirred, this time by a former employee of Michael Moore. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:
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.
As one might expect, Ferguson residents reacted with the civility and reason for which they are justly infamous:
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.
So what is this “new” documentary? What is this new information that makes all the difference?
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.
I’ll note at this point only that Attorney Kanzler is correct: the video was edited, and the incident with Brown depicted therein took place eleven hours before Brown returned to rob the store. It had no bearing on his eventual death. More shortly.
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.’
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.
The facts, as one might expect, are substantially different:
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.
Again, Pollock’s versions doesn’t comport well with fact:
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.
I happened to watch Pollock on a Fox News program on 03-13-17. He was rude, abrasive, and essentially made his case by yelling “bias” over and over again (to see the video, go here). For the sake of argument, let’s take Pollock’s surmise at face value.
Michael Brown, at approximately 0100 on 08-09-14, traded marijuana for cheap cigars, but didn’t actually take them with him. Instead, he returned some 11 hours later to pick them up, but roughed up the clerk as he was leaving with the items. This, to Pollock’s way of thinking, means Brown didn’t rob the store, and therefore, then-Officer Darren Wilson’s actions were improper. Some have even suggested Brown didn’t have cigars with him when stopped by Wilson.
The facts in the case are, thankfully, clear, not that such clarity will stop controversy. As always, we must remember we’re dealing with social justice, which requires the vindication of the proper narrative, not equal justice under the rule of law.
Under the rule of law, what Michael Brown did eleven hours before approached by Officer Wilson is entirely irrelevant. The surveillance video of that interaction with the clerks of the convenience store was properly obtained via search warrant, and was known to all parties almost immediately after the shooting. It was released to the public, along with the rest of the investigative report on November 24, 2015. The Holder Department of Justice had it and all other evidence, and if they could have found a way to go after Officer Wilson, they surely would have done it, but the evidence was so clear and conclusive, they had to admit he did nothing at all wrong.
Attorney Kanzler is right: there is nothing new here at all, but more importantly, there is nothing relevant to Brown’s death, other than the fact he was a regular pot user, and favored “blunts,” cheap cigars hollowed out and filled with pot. One could also argue that the video proves Brown was also a small time dealer.
Rational analysis of the evidence–the Michael Brown archive is available here–is not helpful to the Pollock narrative. Dorian Johnson, Brown’s dim-witted pot-smoking friend, who smoked pot every morning the way most people eat Frosted Flakes, testified he and Brown went to the convenience store that day to obtain blunts. He admitted Brown robbed the store–he was surprised by it and had no part in the robbery–and took the blunts with him. Moreover, he admitted they were walking down the middle of the street when approached by Wilson.
Even if Pollock were right, even if he had not edited the footage to try to make it look like a drug transaction took place, even if a drug transaction took place in that store at one AM that morning, it doesn’t matter; it’s completely irrelevant. Even if Darren Wilson had no knowledge of the robbery at the store and didn’t for a moment think Brown and Johnson might be responsible for it, he still had more than sufficient probable cause to stop them, as I pointed out in Update 4.
They were walking down the middle of the street, violating at least two Missouri state statues.
Officer Wilson simply asked them to get out of the street, and at that point, everything was up to Michael Brown. Rather than saying “Of course officer,” and moving to the sidewalk, he behaved like the drugged thug he was, and forced Officer Wilson to shoot him.
Pollock’s argument makes no sense on every level. If Brown passed the clerks pot in exchange for blunts, why wouldn’t he take them with him then and there? Why would he wait for 11 hours to retrieve them? Dorian Johnson’s testimony paints a picture of two shiftless, unemployed young men whose days revolved around smoking blunts as often as possible. Surely Brown would not be delaying smoking for half a day?
A good social justice narrative can never go to waste. We’ll be hearing about Michael Brown, holy social justice martyr, for the rest of our days. But there is nothing new. The facts haven’t changed.
The 0100 video has always been known to the police. There was no cover up. The incident was not only recorded in the police report, the store’s tapes were lawfully taken into evidence and dutifully reviewed by all parties. All of the evidence, including that video, was released to the public on 11-24-15. Michael Brown’s parents were given a copy of that, and all other evidence. That video was not presented to the grand jury because it was irrelevant to the case, as Prosecutor Robert McCullough said during the 03-13-17 Fox broadcast.
In fact, the video shows Michael Brown attempting a drug transaction, which was not accepted by the store clerks, who knew they were being recorded. Playing it for the grand jury would have served only to prejudice them against Brown, and no such evidence would ever have been allowed in court, as McCullough noted. As I’ve previously written, McCullough went to great lengths to present all the relevant evidence to the grand jury. He did far more than most prosecutors do. He was scrupulously fair and gave Michael Brown every possible benefit of the doubt. That even the Holder DOJ, an organization steeped in social justice ideology, was forced to come to the same conclusion, says it all.
Michael Brown is dead because he lived a brief life characterized by very bad choices at bad times. His final bad choice–to make a berserker charge at the police officer he brutally beat and whose handgun he tried to take–ended his life, and lawfully so under Missouri law.
No deceptively edited video of Michael Brown trying to make a drug deal will change that reality.