Sunday, April 5, 2015

Brown had $10 in his pocket when he stole the cigarillos

Dorian Johnson told investigators that he assumed Michael Brown would pay for his (Brown's) purchase in the Ferguson Market and Liquor store and that he was surprised when Brown instead walked out with a handful of cigarillos without paying for them. Johnson explained to investigators that because Brown usually wore expensive clothes, Johnson assumed that Brown had plenty of money when they went into the Market.  

Brown had $10 in his shorts pocket when he stole the cigarillos. A medical legal examiner employed by the Saint Louis County Medical Examiner's Office testified to the grand jury that Michael Brown's pockets contained "two lighters, two $5 bills and a small little bag of marijuana" (Page 53). 

I speculate that Brown had the $10 and the bag of marijuana in his pockets because of a long conversation that he had conducted with the Pipe Foreman before he went to the Market. The conversation identified Pipe Foreman as a prospective buyer or seller of narcotics, and therefore Brown and Johnson intended to continue the conversation with Pipe Foreman in the afternoon. The afternoon conversation would be facilitated by smoking marijuana and eating a McDonald's snack. For this purpose, Brown received the $10 and marijuana from a person whom I call Cigarillo Supplier. (I will write about Cigarillo Supplier later in this blog.)


Johnson testified to the grand jury that he himself intended to buy several cigarillos in the Market and that Brown went along casually to buy a single cigarillo.

When I told him [Brown] I was going to get cigarillos, he was like: "I need one too. Let's walk to the store." 
[Page 29; emphasis added]
Johnson never mentioned how much money he himself was carrying on that day. He testified that he himself intended to buy breakfast for his girlfriend and that he had sufficient cash to buy the breakfast and the cigarillos. It seems that Johnson planned to buy cigarillos at the Market and then to buy the breakfast at the next-door McDonald's restaurant. 
Prosecutor  Did you go get anything to eat first or you went to the market first? 
Johnson  No, we went straight to the market. 
[Pages 30 - 31]
Johnson testified that he assumed Brown too had plenty of cash, because Brown always dressed well. 
Prior to walking to the store, it never came up that he [Brown] didn't have any money. 
I had money. I had money in my pocket. 
It never came up what we were going to do in the store, because we already knew we was going to purchase cigarillos. In my mind, that's what we were going to do.
I never thought that he didn't have any money, because when I did see him he dressed in nice and next-generation clothing, kind of pricier, so I figure that he had money. 
[Page 31]
Surely Johnson knew, however, that Brown rarely had any money. Brown was unemployed and had been staying in an acquaintance's apartment and sleeping on a couch there for a couple of weeks. Brown had been kicked out of his grandmother's home, and so he wore the same old, baggy clothes every day. 


Johnson described himself as an older, wiser mentor to the younger, inexperienced Brown. Johnson also described the trip to the store as his own initiative to buy several cigarillos, with Brown casually coming along to buy just one cigarillo. 

As soon as they entered the store, however, it was Brown who immediately approached the counter and asked the clerk for several boxes of cigarillos. Johnson stood quietly and passively in the background. Brown led, and Johnson followed.  

Two clerks -- a male and a female -- were involved in the incident. The female clerk's account of the incident has been provided to the public only indirectly through the Offense / Incident Report. The male clerk's account has not been provided to the public. No transcript of an interview of either clerk has been released to the public. Neither clerk testified to the grand jury. 

In the store's video, the male clerk cannot be seen while he is behind the counter. The video is silent. 

Therefore, the public's understanding of what happened among the clerks and Brown and Johnson is vague.


According to the Offense / Incident Report -- apparently written by a police investigator or detective who interviewed only the female clerk two days after the incident -- Brown told the male clerk that he wanted to buy several boxes of cigars. 

[The female clerk] had just come out of the restroom and returned to the counter, where she observed Brown tell [the male clerk] that he (Brown) wanted several boxes of cigars. As [the male clerk] was placing the boxes on the counter, Brown grabbed a box of Swisher Sweet cigars and handed them to Johnson, who was standing behind Brown. [The female clerk] witnessed [the male clerk] tell Brown that he had to pay for those cigars first. 
That is when Brown reached across the counter and grabbed numerous packs of Swisher Sweets and turned to leave the store. 
[The female clerk] then calls "911". 
Meanwhile [the male clerk] comes out from behind the counter and attempts   to stop Brown from leaving. According to [the female clerk], [the male clerk] was trying to lock the door until Brown returned the merchandise to him. That is when Brown grabbed [the male clerk] by the shirt and forcefully pushed him back to the display rack. [The male clerk] backed away, and Brown and Johnson exited the store with the cigars. 
[Page 6 of 10; emphasis added] 
According to the Investigative Report (page 53), the incident involved two boxes. The first was "a 60-count box of Swisher Sweet brand cigarillos, regular flavor, valued at $33.99" -- (67¢ per cigarillo). The second was "a 15-count, packet of Swisher Sweet brand cigarillos, regular flavor, valued at approximately $15.00" -- ($1 per cigarillo).

Since Brown had only $10 in his pockets, he could not buy either box. 

Investigators never asked Johnson to specify how much cash he himself (Johnson) was carrying or how many cigarillos he intended to buy.  

Johnson told the grand jury that Brown grabbed the boxes as follows:  
It is a male store clerk that he [Brown] is talking to. .... The male store clerk ask him what does he want. Big Mike says in a very not-threatening voice ... "I want this box of cigarillos."

While he was saying it, he was leaning forward to grab them. .... He reached over the counter the first time, and the store clerk was standing right in front of him and never did anything. He [the clerk] didn't say anything the first time. He [the clerk] didn't smack his hand down or anything like that.

That was the time that he [Brown] pulled back, and he handed the box [to Johnson]. It was a box of mini-cigarillos, 69-cent cigarillos [i.e. a 60-count box]. It was just a box of them. He turned around and handed those to me.

He [Brown] went back the second time and grabbed a handful of the single cigarillos.

The first [time] he grabbed the box, and the store clerk did nothing.

This [second] time he [Brown] was going back to grab the single cigarillos.

As he [Brown] was coming back, the store clerk did a late response and he [the clerk] swung at his [Brown's] hand, but he missed. Because he [the clerk] was so late, he [the clerk] smacked the counter. .... The store clerk missed, [but] he kind of hit the top of some cigarillos, which made some of them fall.

Big Mike turned to pick them up, and as he picked those up, he faced towards the door.

That's when I knew something is not right here. ... I didn't see money get transferred to the store clerk. That's why I sat the box of cigarillos back on the counter.

[Pages 31 - 34]
The differences between the the female clerk's and Johnson's accounts include the following:
* The female clerk indicated that Brown requested several boxes, and so the male clerk placed several boxes onto the counter. 
* Johnson indicated that Brown reached across the counter and serially grabbed two boxes that happened to be within his reach. 
** The female clerk indicated that the male clerk placed the first box on the counter and then turned back to the rear shelf to get the second box. While the male clerk was getting the second box, Brown grabbed the first box from the counter and handed it back to Johnson. 
** Johnson indicated that a variety of cigarillos were on the counter, Brown grabbed a box and handed it back to Johnson. Then as Brown was grabbing a handful of individual cigarillos from the counter, the male clerk knocked them from Brown's hand. 
*** The female clerk indicated that the male clerk placed only boxes onto the counter, but Brown departed with "numerous packs".

*** Johnson indicated that Brown grabbed a handful of individual cigarillos from the counter.
I speculate that these two accounts can be synthesized as follows. 

Brown told the male clerk that he wanted to buy one 60-count box. The clerk took such a box from the rear shelf and placed it onto the counter. Then Brown said that he wanted to buy additionally one individual cigarillo. The clerk did not have an individual cigarillo available, so he decided to open a 15-count box. As the clerk was turning back to take a 15-count box from the rear shelf, Brown grabbed the 60-count box from the counter and handed it back to Johnson. 

When the clerk placed the 15-count box onto the counter, he noticed that the 60-count box had disappeared. As Brown was grabbing the 15-count box, the clerk grabbed it too, and individual cigarillos spilled out of the box and onto the counter. Some spilled further onto the floor. Brown grabbed some individual cigarillos from the counter and then backed up, holding the now empty box in his left hand and some individual cigarillos in his right hand. Brown put the empty box back onto the counter and then bent down to pick the spilled individual cigarillos from the floor. 

The above video includes the following sequence of events:

0:48 = Brown hands the 60-count box to Johnson.

0:57 = Brown lunges forward and grabs the 15-count box of cigarillos. Brown and the male clerk struggle for the box, and the individual cigarillos spill out -- some onto the counter and some onto the floor. 

1:00 = Brown pulls backward, holding the now empty box in his left hand and several individual cigarillos in his right hand. 

1:03 = Brown puts the now empty 15-count box back onto the counter.

1:05 = Johnson puts the 60-count box back onto the counter

1:08 = Brown, still holding some individual cigarillos in his right hand, bends down to pick spilled individual cigarillos from the floor with his left hand. 

1:14 = Brown stands up, holding individual cigarillos in both hands.

1:18 = Brown bends down again to pick up more spilled individual cigarillos from the floor.

1:20 = Brown heads for the store's front door. (By the time he exits, he is holding all his individual cigarillos in his right hand.) 


Keep in mind that the male clerk's account of the incident never has been revealed to the public. We don't know for sure what happened or what was said between the male clerk and Brown at the counter. Eventually, Brown grabbed some individual cigarillos from the counter and from the floor. 

We know that Brown had $10 (two $5 bills), and Johnson said that Brown intended to buy only one cigarillo, which would have cost only $1. Johnson said that he himself intended to buy many more than one cigarillo, but we don't know how much money he had or how many cigarillos he intended to buy. 

The public can only speculate about essential elements of the incident in the store. My own speculation is the following:

Johnson intended to buy a 60-count box and had at least $33.99 for this purchase. Johnson shopped at the store frequently and did not want to cause trouble there. Brown intended to buy one individual cigarillo, which would have cost $1 (i.e. from a 15-count box), and he had $10.

Johnson and Brown intended to go from the store to the next-door McDonald's restaurant, where they would buy some food. Then they would take the cigarillos and the food back to a planned meeting with Pipe Foreman, where they would discuss potential drug deals.

Brown was starving and wanted to get to McDonald's as soon as possible. Therefore, when Brown entered the Market, he rushed to the counter to accomplish all the purchases quickly. Brown knew that Johnson intended to purchase a 60-count box, so he requested such a box from the clerk and handed the box back to Johnson. Both Brown and Johnson intended that this 60-count box would be purchased properly.

Then Brown intended to buy a individual cigarillo from the clerk. Because Brown was impatient and impulsive, however, this transaction went amiss. As the male clerk was opening a 15-count box to get the individual cigarillo, Brown grabbed the box. Then the clerk hit at Brown's hand. Cigarillos spilled onto the counter, and some spilled further onto the floor. Brown filled his right hand with the cigarillos that had spilled onto the counter. Brown backed up, realized that the box in his left hand was now empty, and placed the empty box onto the counter. Then Brown bent down and picked up all the cigarillos from the floor. 

Impulsively, Brown decided to escape the store with his entire $10 and also with a lot of cigarillos. When Brown exited the store, he was holding cigarillos only in his right hand, but perhaps he had stuck some into his left pocket.  

Meanwhile, Johnson had done nothing wrong and was baffled by the sudden turn of events. Johnson could have calmed Brown, apologized for Brown to the clerk, paid for the box of cigarillos, and departed with Brown calmly. Instead, though, Johnson immediately placed the box onto the counter and exited the store, ahead of Brown.


Brown's outburst was strange, but it could be explained by an erratic temperament, lack of sleep, marijuana intoxication, hunger, and the surprise spillage of cigarillos. 

Johnson's behavior was strange too. He shopped at the store regularly, and he had come to the store on this occasion to buy a 60-count box of cigarillos, and he had enough money to buy it. No matter what Brown did, Johnson still could have purchased the box without causing himself any trouble. Nevertheless, Johnson abruptly put his 60-count box onto the counter and rushed out of the store. 

My explanation for Johnson's abrupt actions was that he was ordered to leave immediately by a man who was standing just outside the store's open front door. 

No comments: