Did Michael Brown Steal Cigars — Or Pay For Them?

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If Michael Brown committed a felonious strong-arm robbery at a convenience store just minutes before he was shot, why didn’t anybody from the store call 911? The report was made by a customer following what appeared to be an altercation between the 6’4″ Brown and a much smaller store employee.

According to the store’s owner, police didn’t issue a subpoena for the store’s surveillance video until last Friday — the day it was provided to the media by police officials, along with the name of Officer Darren Wilson, who fatally shot Brown a few minutes after the incident at the store. Wilson was not aware of the alleged robbery, and he was not pursuing Brown as a suspect. The fatal encounter began when Wilson rebuked Brown and his friend, Dorian Johnson, for jaywalking.

An excerpt of the security video shot from a different angle shows the figure identified as Brown at a check-out counter paying for the cigars before the apparent confrontation with the store clerk.

It’s not clear why the clerk confronted Brown, and why the much larger 18-year-old shoved the clerk, if no robbery was involved. The initial police report claimed that an unnamed “patron” had contacted police to report a “stealing in progress.” In a subsequent police interview, the witness claimed that Brown had reached over the counter and grabbed several packages of Swisher Sweets cigars and tried to leave without paying them. In the video above Brown can be seen reaching across the counter — but it appears that money is left on the counter, and accepted by the clerk, before Brown calmly walks toward the exit.

According to the police report, the cigars — whether stolen or paid for — were not recovered. Despite the fact that Dorian Johnson, who witnessed the shooting, was identified in that report as a second suspect, he has not been charged.

If the cigars were paid for, Brown may have been a bully (at least on this occasion), but he wasn’t a thief. One possibility is that the altercation occurred because the clerk “carded” the 18-year-old, who was of legal age to buy tobacco products in Missouri.

8:12 pm on August 18, 2014
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