Does new video in the Michael Brown case change anything?

There’s a new video of Michael Brown inside the convenience store he would later rob which, according to a new documentary, changes our understanding of what happened the day he was shot. But the owners of the store are disputing those claims. From the New York Times:

The footage shows Mr. Brown entering the store, 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. Mr. Brown is shown walking toward the door with the sack, then turning around and handing the cigarillos back across the counter before exiting.

Jason Pollock, a documentary filmmaker who acquired the new tape, says the footage challenges the police narrative that Mr. Brown committed a strong-armed robbery when he returned to the store around noon that day. Instead, Mr. Pollock believes that the new video shows Mr. Brown giving a small bag of marijuana to store employees and receiving cigarillos in return as part of a negotiated deal. Mr. Pollock said Mr. Brown left the cigarillos behind the counter for safekeeping.

So that’s the gist of the new claim: Mike Brown was trading drugs for cigarillos but, for some reason, walked out without his part of the deal that night and came back the next day to get them. But the owners of the store are disputing that version of events. From the Associated Press:

Jay Kanzler, an attorney for the store and the employees shown in the video, said no such transaction took place.

“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,” Kanzler told the newspaper.

The store’s co-owner, Andy Patel, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Sunday that Brown “grabbed the cigarillos and stole them” when Brown returned to the store later that day. Previously released surveillance video shows Brown strong-arming Patel and pushing him as he left.

The CNN segment below includes the new video. You can watch it for yourself. It does look to me as if maybe Mike Brown was offering someone a bag of weed. But there are still a bunch of problems with this story. For starters, it seems no one involved in this alleged drug deal has admitted that’s what happened so we can’t say for sure that’s what is happening here. But even if we assume this was a drug deal, we don’t know what led up to this. Is this trade something that Brown did regularly? Maybe he was paying off a previous debt of cigarillos or something else he had previously taken in exchange for the drugs.

Then there’s the argument that the filmmaker is making. Jason Pollock tells the NY Times, “They destroyed Michael’s character with the tape, and they didn’t show us what actually happened.” He’s talking about the police decision to release the video of the robbery. But wait a minute. Are we now supposed to believe that if police had instead released both videos and suggested a drug deal had gone wrong that would have been better for Michael Brown’s character? I think the real problem here is that, regardless of what came before, Brown shoves and intimidates a store owner when he walks out of the store.

Ultimately, none of this is why Michael Brown died. It may have caused Officer Wilson to back up his car and, potentially, question or even arrest Brown. But it was Michael Brown’s decision to hand off the cigarillos to his friend so he could wrestle for the officer’s gun that was the bigger issue. Then, and this is key, after he ran away and the officer got out of his car and ordered him to stop, Brown stopped, turned and charged at the officer. That’s what Officer Wilson said happened and it’s what the best eyewitnesses say happened and it’s what the autopsy report showed. In other words, a series of very bad decisions by Michael Brown after he left the store the 2nd time played a far more proximate role in his death.

Curiously, the NY Times doesn’t mention any of those details. Here’s what the Times says about his death:

Regardless of what happened at the store in the early-morning hours, the new security footage does not resolve long-simmering questions about Mr. Brown’s encounter with Officer Darren Wilson along a Ferguson street that day. Officer Wilson, who claimed that he feared for his life and had been assaulted by Mr. Brown, was cleared of criminal wrongdoing by a county grand jury and federal civil rights investigators. He resigned from the Police Department.

Are these questions still simmering at the NY Times? Why is that? The facts of this case have been clear for a very long time at this point thanks to a very detailed DOJ report. Here’s the CNN story which similarly notes Officer Wilson wasn’t indicted but doesn’t spare any time to explain why:

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