Rob Burgess

A previously unseen piece of evidence in the Aug. 9, 2014 shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri Officer Darren Wilson has been released in the new documentary, “Stranger Fruit,” which premiered Saturday at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

When Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson released Wilson’s name Aug. 15, 2014, he simultaneously announced Brown was a suspect in a strong-armed robbery at Ferguson Market & Liquor minutes before the shooting. A video released accompanying this announcement shows Brown and friend, Dorian Johnson, allegedly stealing $48.99 worth of Swisher Sweet cigars at around noon. Now it seems that wasn’t the only trip Brown had made to the store that day.

“The [new] footage shows Brown entering Ferguson Market and Liquor, shortly after 1 a.m. on the day he died. He approaches the counter, hands over an item that appears to be a small bag and takes a shopping sack filled with cigarillos. Brown is shown walking toward the door with the sack, then turning around and handing the cigarillos back across the counter before exiting,” reported The New York Times’ Mitch Smith on Saturday. “Jason Pollock, a documentary filmmaker who acquired the new tape, says the footage challenges the police narrative. ... Pollock believes that the new video shows Brown giving a small bag of marijuana to store employees and receiving cigarillos in return as part of a negotiated deal. Pollock said Brown left the cigarillos behind the counter for safekeeping.”

Three men behind the counter are shown passing around and smelling the object before Brown leaves the store empty-handed. This new video represents quite the omission in the official story.

This is the eighth column I’ve written about the Ferguson riots. It seems nearly every decision made by authorities was custom-designed in a laboratory to infuriate a heartbroken populace. The decision to leave Brown’s body in the summer sun for more than four hours, in plain view of the entire neighborhood, didn’t kick things off to a great start.

On Aug. 16 and 17, 2014, Gov. Jay Nixon imposed a midnight to 5 a.m. curfew. “Approved Assembly Areas” or “Free Speech Zones” were set up. Protesters who showed up after the Missouri National Guard was deployed and the curfew was lifted Aug. 18, 2014, were told they could demonstrate, but only if they didn’t stop walking.

Prosecutor Robert McCullough dropped the news of no indictment of Wilson and 4,799 pages of grand jury transcripts like a ton of bricks during a bizarre 25-minute-long press conference after dark Nov. 24, 2014. Requests from groups, including the Don’t Shoot Coalition, for 36-hours notice of the grand jury decision in an attempt to soothe protesters were completely ignored.

Officials did everything they could to stifle coverage. Police in the area mostly stopped wearing identification. Dozens of journalists were arrested or threatened for simply doing their jobs.

Three days after the shooting, the St. Louis County Police Department instituted a 12-day, 37-square-mile-plus no-fly zone, extending 3,000 feet above the town, starting Aug. 12, 2014. The initial stated impetus was safety, but a Freedom of Information Act request by The Associated Press’ Jack Gillum and Joan Lowy showed the real reason was to target the press.

Though the Department of Justice announced in its March 4, 2015 report that Wilson would not face federal charges, we’ll never really know the full truth. The grand jury decision was not a trial, but simply held to determine if local charges would even be filed. My question continues to be: If everything was above-board, why obscure important parts of the story?

Rob Burgess, Tribune city editor, may be reached by calling 765-454-8577, via email at or on Twitter at



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