By Gregory Crofton
Jason Pollock’s enraging documentary “STRANGER FRUIT” is about the death of Michael Brown Jr., an 18-year-old shot on a street in Ferguson, Missouri, in the summer of 2014.
Pollock’s film is thoroughly researched and points out enough evidence, some new, to make you want to see Officer Darren Wilson be charged for murder.
Wilson shot Brown seven times. The last two bullets entered his skull and were fatal. Wilson encountered Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson by chance after responding to a medical call in the area. He found the two young men walking down the middle of the street. Some type of confrontation took place after Brown and his friend refused the officer’s command to immediately move to the sidewalk.
Police left Brown’s dead body in the street in 100-degree heat for more than four hours that day. In his only interview, conducted by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Wilson, 28, claimed that Brown charged him and he felt his life was in danger: “like a 5-year-old going against Hulk Hogan.”
Brown’s death, and the fact that ultimately no charges were filed against Wilson, sparked days of rioting and unrest in Ferguson. The outrage turned into the “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” protests that became part of the national #BlackLivesMatter movement.
“STRANGER FRUIT” is an important documentary, one every person should see if they have an opinion about this horrific encounter.
None of the physical evidence presented by Pollock, listed on LinkedIn as creative director to Michael Moore at Dog Eat Dog Film, indicates Brown ever charged Wilson. Instead it shows he staggered forward to his death as Wilson continued to fire on him.
Pollack also makes a compelling case that law enforcement officials distributed propaganda to the national media to smear Brown’s character by releasing surveillance video, a day after the shooting, of Brown committing a “strong-arm” robbery at a nearby convenience store.
Pollock makes this argument with evidence he discovered in police reports. He used that information to track down new video of Brown at the same convenience store, but it was taken the night before he was shot. Apparently the cigars Brown “stole” from the daytime clerk were owed to him as part of a barter he made for a small amount of marijuana the day before with the night clerk, a trade not uncommon in the neighborhood.
As this movie builds, revelations about the case stack up. Its title “STRANGER FRUIT,” a reference to Billie Holiday’s song about lynching, seems fitting, as does the use of the song in film.
My admiration and enthusiasm for this doc is restrained only by the director’s connection to Moore, known for producing films with a political bent that can distort the truth. This “Michael Moore-effect” working in combination with the mountain of evidence presented in support of Brown, made me wonder if Pollock left out pertinent information to increase the power of his story.
Some witness accounts listed on Wikipedia say Brown tussled with Wilson in his cruiser. Others recall Brown charging Wilson.
And if this case was so poorly investigated, why didn’t Obama’s team of federal prosecutors dismiss the findings of Missouri investigators and start from scratch? Why did the Department of Justice support the decision not to charge Wilson with a crime, but months later find that the Ferguson Police Department routinely discriminated against African American residents and violated their constitutional rights?
It doesn’t make sense, just like it didn’t make sense for Brown, already shot twice, to have charged Wilson.
I reached Pollock via direct message on Twitter to ask him about the other “witness” accounts I read on Wikipedia. Here is his response, in part:
“Those witnesses didn’t really see what happened based on their own testimonies if anyone had read them, which our team of course did. The physical evidence at the scene tells the story. The thesis of the film is the witnesses are irrelevant because they were used by the STL County Prosecutors office to make us think something. Those other witnesses didn’t have good lines of sight and had very contradictory statements but were treated as credible, while every witness in defense of Mike was thrown out. That’s essentially what I say in the film. It’s blatant bias by the prosecutors office … plus, Dorian was literally standing right there and saw the whole thing, and they threw his testimony out. His testimony matches perfectly with the physical evidence at the scene. Any real investigator who actually cared, would’ve seen this and convicted the officer.”
“STRANGER FRUIT” is airing on STARZ and available through iTunes and other outlets.