A new documentary about the death of Michael Brown, who was fatally shot by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in 2014, is raising new questions about what Brown was doing before he was killed, the New York Times reports.
The film, “Stranger Fruit,” is directed by Jason Pollock, and includes never-before-seen security camera footage from the Ferguson Market, where police have claimed Brown committed a robbery before his death. Pollock, 35, says the robbery never happened, and the video shows Brown engaging in a drug deal with the store’s employees.
The video was recorded about 1 a.m. on August 9, 2014. Another surveillance video recording from the Ferguson Market showed Brown in the store again about 11:50 p.m. that same day. Police said he stole a box of cigars from the store during that second trip to the store, but Pollock, in the documentary, argues that no robbery occurred, it was part of a barter deal struck during Brown’s first stop at the market. Brown was fatally shot about noon after leaving the store.
St. Louis County District Attorney Robert McCulloch will be releasing the full surveillance video and said at a press conference it does not change the case at all. He said the video was already known to investigators. McCulloch said the footage in the documentary was “poorly edited,” and it was a “pathetic attempt” by the filmmaker.
He said the video is “certainly not relevant or material to anything that occurred later in the day,” and was never publicly released because it was not presented to the grand jury investigating Brown’s death. McCulloch said the video would not have been admissible in a criminal trial. Police did include information about the video in reports about the shooting, including a description of it, which led Pollock to the video.
A civil suit in the case is still ongoing.
Here’s what you need to know about Pollock and the film:
1. The Documentary Debuted at South by Southwest & the New Video Led to Protests at the Ferguson Market
The documentary debuted this weekend at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.
You can watch the video of Michael Brown at the Ferguson market below:
“There was some type of exchange, for one thing, for another,” Lesley McSpadden, Brown’s mother, says in Mr. Pollock’s documentary, according to the Times.
“They destroyed Michael’s character with the tape, and they didn’t show us what actually happened,” Pollock told the Times. “So this shows their intention to make him look bad. And shows suppression of evidence.”
Pollock spent two years working on the documentary, originally called “The Ferguson Cover-Up,” examining what happened before, during and after the incident, including the decision by prosecutors to not charge Wilson.
Pollock wrote on the Huffington Post that “like many in America,” Brown’s death “truly changed my life forever. That day the world shifted a bit and started rotating in a slightly different direction. The winds changed and since that day we have seen some pretty historic things taking place around America.”
He said he spent the past two years living in Ferguson while working on the documentary.
The release of the new video led to protests Sunday night outside the Ferguson Market. Arrests were made and a Ferguson police officer suffered a broken nose, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Shots were fired twice from across the street, but no one was hit.
Jay Kanzler, the attorney for the Ferguson Market, said he plans to release the full, unedited surveillance video on Monday.
“The video has been out there,” Kanzler said. He claimed many people have seen it, including Brown’s family. “This isn’t new.”
Kanzler told the New York Times, “There was no transaction. 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.”
2. He Got Into a Heated Argument With CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Harry Houck While Defending His Documentary
Pollock got into a heated argument on CNN with law enforcement analyst Harry Houck, a retired NYPD detective, while defending the documentary.
Houck accused Pollock of being “nothing but anti-cop,” and Pollock said Houck was “lying and everything he is saying is a lie.” Houck also called Pollock a “liar and a fraud.”
Pollock claims the video shows a store employee “smelling” the bag after Brown gives it to them.
“I can’t lock somebody up for smelling the bag, that’s an assumption on your part,” Houck said during the shouting match.
Pollock also told Houck the argument “Reminds me of the inauguration … when people look at an empty field and Donald Trump said it’s the biggest field in the world. Some people are looking at this video and they are pretending that something isn’t there.”
Houck said, “You have no evidence of anything and that robbery still occurred.”
Pollock told Houck to “continue your white supremacy on the air,” and asked him “how do you sleep at night?” Houck responded he “sleeps at night fighting guys like you.”
3. Pollock Grew Up in Connecticut & Broke Into the Film Industry as an Assistant, Including 3 Years Working With Michael Moore
Pollock, 35, grew up in Connecticut and graduated from Fairfield High School in 1999, according to the Hartford Courant.
He attended the University of Wisconsin for one year, before starting his career in the film industry, according to his Linkedin profile. His first job was as an executive assistant for New Screen Concepts, which produced the ABC reality TV series “Houston Medical” from 2001 to 2003.
Pollock then spent three years working for filmmaker Michael Moore in Michigan as his assistant. He worked with Moore and his company, Dog Eat Dog Films, while they created “Dude Where’s My Country,” “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “Slacker Uprising.”
He worked for Moore again from 2015 to 2016 as creative director on the documentary “Where To Invade Next.”
4. He Directed a Documentary, ‘The Youngest Candidate,’ About 4 Teens Running for Public Office
Pollock’s first documentary, “The Youngest Candidate,” was released in 2008 and profiled four teens running for public office in America: Atlantic City council candidate Ytit Chauhan, Hartford mayoral candidate Raul De Jesus, Memphis council candidate Geroge Monger and Pennsylvania school board candidate Tiffany Tupper.
Pollock said the film wasn’t just about telling the stories of the four candidates, but also starting a movement for young people in the United States to get more involved in politics.
“There are many motivations for the film but the biggest motivation was going with Michael Moore as he was speaking to crowds and saw the youth movement ignite during the filming of Slacker Uprising,” he told Digital Journal. “That movement wasn’t quite what it needed to be in the election. I wanted to go further in exploring that movement of youth being ignited. Working with Michael Moore changed my life.”
5. Pollock Has Also Worked With MoveOn.org, the United Nations & Started a Creative Agency Called Boom Content
Pollock has also worked with several organizations, including as a digital strategist for Oprah’s Harpo Productions, MoveOn.org and The Global Poverty Project and a social media envoy for the United Nations, according to his Linkedin profile.
In 2010, he founded a company called Boom Content, “a boutique creative agency that specializes in building brands for high influence individuals, startups, and organizations. We have received 1,000,000,000+ impressions for our clients, campaigns, & projects.”
He also helped Michael Moore co-found the Traverse City Film Festival.