It’s no doubt true that Officer Wilson was unaware of Brown’s role in the robbery minutes earlier. It makes no sense that he would attempt to stop Brown and Johnson by himself if he knew they were suspects in a robbery. But of course Brown did know about the robbery, and we can assume that in his mind there was more at stake in the encounter with Wilson than a mere ticket for walking in the street. Brown thought he would be arrested – and what an improvement that would have been over the way things turned out.
It may be that the cigar robbery was the first and only crime Brown committed in his young life, but I doubt it. We’re told he had no criminal record as an adult, but he was only months past his 18th birthday. Is there evidence of previous violence in his juvenile record? We don’t yet know, as juvenile records are ordinarily kept under seal. But investigative journalist Charles C. Johnson has sued for access to Brown’s. And even if Johnson fails in his legal battle, these things have a way of coming out, often despite the myth-makers’ best efforts.
Even without Brown’s juvenile record, we have a way to surmise whether the cigar caper was his first foray into crime or the work of a more seasoned thief. In watching the video of the robbery, note how casually Brown shoves the store clerk out of the way, and note how effortlessly he relied on his large size to turn and intimidate the man before leaving the store. I want these cigars, there’s not a damn thing you can do to stop me from taking them, and heaven help you if you try.
And consider: Wouldn’t a first-time robber be more circumspect in making his getaway than to walk down the middle of the street and virtually invite attention from a passing cop? My guess is that when Brown’s past is more fully revealed, a strong-arm robbery will not stand out as the worst of his misdeeds.