Prosecutor: Ferguson convenience store video 'not relevant’ to grand jury investigation
Updated at 4:35 p.m. March 13 with comment from Ferguson police chief, attorney for convenience store and security footage — A security video made public over the weekend that shows Michael Brown at a Ferguson convenience store about a half-day before his death was a "poorly edited snippet" of something that was deemed "not relevant" to the grand jury investigation, the St. Louis County prosecutor said Monday.
The video, which was not the same one that Ferguson authorities showed days after Brown's death in August 2014 alleging he was a suspect in a robbery, is part of a documentary called "Stranger Fruit." The filmmaker, Jason Pollock, said this weekend that the new security video shows Brown trading marijuana for cigarillos.
St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch, who oversaw the grand jury investigation into Brown's death, said in a news conference Monday that authorities knew about the earlier video but did not release it because it was "not relevant or material or admissible in anything that we were investigating during that time frame."
The St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office also released five security videos today from the early hours of August 9, 2014, including the footage used in Pollock's documentary.
Former Ferguson officer Darren Wilson was cleared by the grand jury of wrongdoing.
McCulloch said the earlier video, dated Aug. 9, 2014, was in the original police report.
"It's not as if this was hidden away somewhere," said McCulloch, who also released the full video and was critical of the documentary filmmaker.
A lawyer for Ferguson Market, the convenience store in question, said Pollock's assertion is incorrect, that no drug transaction took place and that he was open to speaking with anyone and walking them through the video and his clients' position.
"My clients had nothing to do with Michael Brown's death on Canfield [Drive]," attorney Jay Kanzler said. "They just didn't, and to suggest otherwise recklessly like this documentary does, is scary."
Ferguson Mayor James Knowles referred requests for comment to Ferguson's police chief, Delrish Moss. Moss said he hadn't seen the video, but is concerned that the publicity will cause protests and tensions to flare up again.
Already, a few dozen people protested outside of Ferguson Market, 9101 W. Florissant Ave., where the surveillance video is from, on Sunday night, the Post-Dispatch reported. Officials charged a 44-year-old man with attempting to start a fire in a St. Louis County police vehicle by stuffing a napkin in the gas tank and trying to ignite it.
Moss said one of his police officers suffered a broken nose Sunday.
“We’ve had other situations where we had people out peacefully protesting — and suddenly gunfire erupts,” Moss said. “There are clearly some people who want the city to move forward and they want these things to move forward. And there are clearly some people who are opportunists looking for any chance they can get or any platform to cause mayhem.”
Moss added that "a lot has changed since 2014," pointing to Ferguson’s City Council, staff and police department. “And although these videos seem to be new with regard to the public, they’ve had a lot of scrutiny. So what I tell people is if you’re going to come to Ferguson, come to Ferguson to do something positive."
McCulloch’s office has faced scrutiny and criticism for the way it handled the grand jury investigation. His decision not to call for a special prosecutor to handle the case drew the ire of activists because they believed McCulloch couldn't be impartial because his father, Paul McCulloch, a St. Louis police officer, was shot and killed, in the line of duty, by a black man in 1964.
He was also criticized for overloading the grand jury with weeks’ worth of evidence, rather than presenting what was needed to prove probable cause.
McCulloch admittedin December 2014 that the grand jurors had heard from witnesses who lied under oath and to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. But he said in the same radio interview that it was more important to “present the entire picture to the grand jury.”
Anethics complaint filed in 2015 accused McCulloch and the assistant prosecutors who appeared in front of the grand jury of acting more like defense attorneys for Wilson than a prosecutor.
Watch the full press conference with St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch
Willis Ryder Arnold and Rachel Lippmann contributed to this report.
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