A shooting erupted inside the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover, Alabama on Thanksgiving evening after men “got into a physical confrontation” near Footaction and the JCPenney store, Hoover police said. However, police initially misidentified the shooter, sparking an outcry and protests.
Erron Brown is now accused of being the actual shooter. He was arrested in Georgia.
Initially, police said that one man shot the other, and the gunman was then shot and killed by a Hoover police officer. In the melee, a 12-year-old girl was also shot. However, they now say that a second man may have been the gunman and that the man shot and killed by the Hoover police – Emantic Bradford, Jr., 21 – was not the shooter. Bradford’s family says he was a Good Samaritan who was doing nothing wrong and who was licensed to carry a gun.
Witnesses painted a terrifying scene as early Black Friday shoppers ended up in a mass panic at the sounds of gunfire. People were screaming “active shooter; get to the back of the store,” one witness told WBRC. However, police now say that while they think Bradford – the man killed by police – was involved in the initial altercation (they didn’t say how), they no longer think he fired the shots that injured the other man. Eight other people were treated for injuries unrelated to gunfire. Bradford is the son of a cop who once sought to join the United States Army.
Bradford’s stepmother wrote on Facebook, “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.”
Hoover Police wrote: “We would like to answer some media questions concerning our earlier statements in reference to the shooting victim, Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford, Jr. of Hueytown. Earlier, we stated that Mr. Bradford ‘brandished; a gun. To clarify, the word ‘brandish’ was used because Mr. Bradford had a gun in his hand as police officers responded to the active shooter situation between mall patrons. We are deeply and sincerely sympathetic to Mr. Bradford’s grieving family and all of those affected by this incident. We all want answers and we believe that with patience and focus, the truth will be firmly established. We want everyone who lives in, works in, works for, or visits Hoover to know that we are a city that puts safety and respect in the highest regard for all citizens. We will be transparent throughout the course of this investigation.”
The later news releases say Bradford “may have been involved in some aspect of the altercation, he likely did not fire the rounds that injured the 18-year-old victim.” It’s not clear whether he was trying to help stop the fight or was somehow involved in it.
Capt. Gregg Rector, of the Hoover Police Department, said the man the gunman shot is 18-years-old and was in serious condition. He’s now been identified as Brian Xavier Wilson, 18, of Birmingham. The 12-year-old female was also struck by gunfire but was alert and talking. Rector said her condition was not entirely clear, and it was also not clear how she was shot.
According to Rector, multiple officers were already working extra duty at the mall because of Black Friday. After the first shooting, said Rector initially, the gunman fled and was confronted by Hoover officers in uniform who “engaged and shot him,” and he was dead at the scene. Rector did not detail what led to the initial confrontation.
“A Hoover police officer was running to the scene. He heard gunshots. … he actually shot and killed the person who shot and injured the other individual,” said Rector in a news conference inside the mall, imparting information that police have since backed away from. The gunman was armed with a handgun, Rector said, adding, “It’s a big shopping day for us… we also gear up for extra manpower.”
You can watch video from the scene below. “The incident at the Galleria has been brought under control by Hoover PD. Please avoid the mall area at this time,” the City of Hoover wrote in a statement. Television news video from the Galleria showed the heavy law enforcement response:
People ran out of the mall in a frantic rush or hid in supply closets and bathrooms and in other places.
Hoover, where the mall is located, is near Birmingham, Alabama. WBRC-TV reported that a man with the gun was “taken down.” There was a round of gunfire and then a lull of gunfire, said WBRC-TV’s reporter. That television station initially reported that at least three people – including a male and female – were brought out on stretchers, but then said there might also be a fourth victim.
One Twitter user claimed this is a Snapchat video of the scene. Be forewarned that it’s graphic.
Other videos circulated:
Terrified people took to social media:
The reports broke out on Twitter with multiple people saying they heard gunfire had erupted inside the mall.
Witnesses described to local television how they hid after seeing people running. “I thought it was a fight because everyone started ducking…we just heard a shooting and that was it,” one person told Fred Davenport for WVTM-TV. Two victims were loaded into an ambulance, Davenport said in his live Facebook report. Another witness told Davenport she heard five shots going off nearby as she walked into Old Navy. “Everybody started running…I hid underneath some clothes,” she said. A young man told Davenport he saw “bodies falling” but he wasn’t sure if those people were shot.
“I was ringing somebody up,” one worker told Davenport. He said there was a stampede of people who ran up saying there was shooting inside the mall. The man then said that he took about 15 people upstairs to safety. A woman had a panic attack and was taken away by ambulance, the worker said. Another man said he saw people running and the doors were locked.
Many people expressed fear on Twitter, with some saying they or others they knew were hiding inside the Galleria. “I serious just had to hid in a bathroom at the Riverchase Galleria. We gotta do better people,” wrote one Twitter user on the evening of November 22, 2018.
Another woman wrote on Twitter, “Just passed the Galleria on my way home from visiting a friend and saw TONS of police cars. If you’re in Birmingham and were thinking about going shopping, do NOT go to the Galleria. Hearing reports of active shooter situation.” A man wrote, “It’s definitely gridlock leaving. The mall was as packed as I’ve seen it in a long time. Praying for those involved, hoping everyone is ok. ? #galleria.” One man told WVTM-TV that he heard gunfire and that it may have happened near the food court. People then started rushing out of the shopping center.
There were plenty such reports. Here are some other reports on Twitter:
This post was updated throughout the night as more information was learned.