Federal authorities are reviewing the deadly Thanksgiving Day mall shooting in Hoover, Alabama. Local police shot and killed the man identified as the shooter, 21-year-old Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr.
Seventeen hours after publishing a release on Twitter about the incident and the fatal shooting of the “suspect,” police said Bradford, known as EJ, was not the shooter.
And just released video shows what happened and was used the justify the shooting.
Just before 10 p.m. on Black Friday in the Riverchase Galleria mall in the town south of Birmingham, gunshots and a report of an active shooting sent shoppers fleeing. Two Hoover Police Department officers were on a holiday security detail at the mall. One of the officers shot dead the man it said was the suspect that left an 18-year-old and a 12-year-old with gunshot wounds.
Bradford was reported to be an active duty U.S. Army soldier, home for Thanksgiving. AL.com reported late Saturday that the US Army Office of Public Affairs said Bradford did not complete basic training and was honorably discharged.
His family hired a prominent civil rights lawyer.
Four days after the shooting, the City of Hoover, Alabama and its police department issued a joint statement that it intends to be “transparent” about the incident and the investigation. But, reports it “can say for certain that Bradford brandished a gun …”
Scores of comments on the Facebook post from the and dozens of other posts some from witnesses and at least one with a graphic 3-minute long video report that Bradford did not “brandish” nor shoot anyone. Police say they have video but have yet to release it.
Bradford had a concealed-handgun license and Alabama gives a wide berth for licensed gun owner. The mall does not allow guns but as has been reported, the rules and enforcement are murky.
On Dec. 3, Crump shared the results of an independent autopsy which revealed Bradford had been shot by the police officer in the back three times; in the lower back, neck and head.
Now, as was reported by AL.com, the case is “under review by various civil rights components within the Department of Justice” and a state report cleared the officer is “part of that review.”
The Alabama Attorney General released its report clearing the officer in the three-shots-fired shooting, following a more than two-month State Bureau of Investigation into Bradford’s death.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Open on Thanksgiving, a Day Ahead of Black Friday, the Mall Was Full of Shoppers When at 9:45 p.m., Shots Rang Out
This is the police description of what occurred posted on Twitter at 4 a.m., around six hours after the incident, police not only described what occurred but announced the police-involved killing of the “suspect,” Bradford.
“Two males engaged in a physical altercation on the second floor Concourse near the entrance to foot action during the fight one of the males produce to handgun and shot the other mail twice in the torso to uniform to cover police officers providing security at the mall when close proximity and heard the gunshots moving toward the shooting scene one of the officers and counted as suspect brandishing a pistol and shot him that individual 21 one-year-old male from Hueytown was pronounced deceased on the scene …”
Police were proud of the quick response.
“From the time that shooting took place, they engaged and it was safe within seconds that it happened,” @HooverPD Chief Nick Derzis said about the response by officers to a Thanksgiving night shooting at the Riverchase Galleria. “You don’t see that too often.”
Bradford was named shortly after by police but they did not speak to the family first, Bradford’s stepmother said.
2. A Hoover Police Officer Shot & Killed Bradford. A Day Later, the HPD Admitted it Shot the Wrong Man & the Real Shooter is at Large. A New Statement From Officials Was Issued Four Days Later
“New evidence suggests that while Mr. Bradford was likely involved in some aspect of the altercation, he likely did not fire the rounds that injured the 18-year-old victim…We regret that our initial media release was not totally accurate,” the news release continued, “but new evidence suggests it was not.”
Initially turned over to the Jackson Sheriff for investigation, it was reported that a conflict existed between a witness and investigators so the case is now in the hands of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. Even as a separate investigation into the shoot is underway, Hoover police are reportedly doing an internal investigation to see if what their cop did were consistent with department policy. The officer, who has not been named, has been placed on administrative leave.
Some are questioning the police version of what occurred. Images of Bradford who lay dead on a shopping mall floor with a gun positioned near him have some dubious.
“It is Hoover Alabama. That man most likely wasn’t armed and was running away just like everyone else. Everything just doesn’t seem right and then finding a weapon this morning a floor below in a different part of building just doesn’t add up. Saying two suspects is convenient.”
And with another gun found in the mall’s Santa’s Village, which a police spokesman told local media he was unaware of, has raised more questions.
Four days after the shooting, the City of Hoover and the police issued a joint statement.
Vowing to be transparent, it maintains Bradford “brandished a gun.” Numerous accounts dispute that he was waving a gun around or fired at anyone.
In this extremely graphic video shared on a Facebook page by a witness, albeit a video that cannot be embedded or downloaded as it is private, Bradford can be seen shot dead with police officers around and no immediate medical response visible.
Two minutes into the video posted by Noland Moore, police can be seen attempting to administer aid to the person described as being Bradford lying on the floor at left, Another person, held down by police on the right is also described in the video as having been shot, but by police and can be seen attempting to wriggle or free himself.
“That boy didn’t shoot at nobody …he’s dead …they just killed that black boy for no reason …he probably got a gun license and everything.”
3. Named by Police as the Gunman, Which Was Subsequently Reported Ad Nauseum, Albeit Incorrectly, Bradford Said he Was an US Army Combat Engineer. The Army Said Bradford Was Honorably Discharged
Since Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis named Bradford as the shooter in the press releases shared to Twitter, the news media did the same in describing him as the “gunman.”
But by Friday, when pressed about its certainty that Bradford shot an 18-year-old reported to have been involved the argument that led to a shoot-out in a packed mall on Thanksgiving, Hoover police Capt. Gregg Rector told local media that since it’s an officer-involved shooting, the Jefferson County (Alabama) Sheriff’s Office would be investigating and that agency would determine the facts.
Bradford said he was an Army combat engineer at 12 Bravo company, according to his Facebook. Soldiers who were friends have been posting condolences.
“Man..I can’t believe it..tons of good memories with u bro.. R.i.p. Li Glock see you again.”
“You will be missed …”
4. Bradford Was Recruited in 2017 & Enlisted. The Army Recruiter Joshua Willams Featured Several Facebook Posts on Bradford
“Ej Bradford leaves today for Basic Training and AIT for 12B…..good luck EJ!!!! #armyteameastwood”
Williams’ posts about Bradford a couple of weeks later:
“One of my recruits Ej Bradford loving life in his first week of Basic Training and giving me a shout out for all I did for him!!! Just so happens one of good friends is a Drill Sergeant and he is taking good care of him!!! #armyteameastwood #goarmy #12B #leonardwood”
5. Bradford Was Described by a Former Teacher From the Catholic High School he Attended as ‘Good-Hearted.’ His Family Has Spoken Out & Hired a Civil Rights Lawyer
A former teacher from Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic High School in Birmingham, the school Bradford attended during ninth and 10th grade, told local media the young man was “…super sweet, funny, kind and good-hearted young man who never had a bad word to say to anyone.” The educator, Carl Dean confirmed that Bradford had enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was “shocked and in disbelief” that Bradford could be the shooter, adding he was “…heartbroken that this young man is no longer with us.”
Friends who have known Bradford since middle school said he was a happy guy and a good person.
“I’ve known Ej Bradford since middle school! Bruh ain’t had a bad trait about him. All he did was put laughter into people. Always kept a smile on his face every single time I saw him. He always kept it G. He was murdered wrongly and Hoover police need to admit it and come clean.”
Bradford’s stepmother Cynthia Kenniebrew Bradford said police and the media named her stepson as the gunman before ever speaking with his family.
“First of all I’m sick of all the lies going around and I’m very upset with the news and the HPD for releasing his name and photo and haven’t yet talked to either parent. So if you wasn’t there please respect the family and let my son RIP.”
Bradford’s mother April Pipkins is seen with her son after he enlisted.
Bradford’s family hired high-profile civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump. The Tallahassee, FL-based attorney represented the families of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, also 17, killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri.
Through Crump, the Bradford family released this statement: “Our family is completely shocked, heartbroken and devastated at the tragic death of our beloved ‘E.J.’ E.J. was a devoted son and brother who dedicated his life to serving his country and always doing the right thing. As we continue to grieve, rest assured that we our working with our legal team to determine exactly what happened and why this police officer killed our son. We will never forget E.J. and ask for your continued prayers during this incredibly difficult time.”
Bradford was the youngest member of a military family and the son of a Marine.
“They shot the wrong man!”
Weeks after the killing of Bradford, Crump shared the results of an independent autopsy. The son of a law enforcement officer, Bradford Jr. was shot three times in the back. His father, EJ Bradford Sr., said his son could not cry out for help as he was shot in the neck and the bullet lodged in his throat.
This story was updated to include a report that the US Army said Bradford was honorably discharged.