Alabama officer's fatal shooting of 21-year-old at mall was 'justified,' state says

Protests erupted in Hoover, Alabama, after the state attorney general announced the officer won't face charges.
April Pipkins holds a photograph of her deceased son, Emantic "EJ" Bradford Jr., during an interview in Birmingham on Nov. 27, 2018.
April Pipkins holds a photograph of her deceased son, Emantic "EJ" Bradford Jr., during an interview in Birmingham on Nov. 27, 2018.Jay Reeves / AP

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By Janelle Griffith

An Alabama police officer who fired shots that killed a 21-year-old man on Thanksgiving night at a mall outside of Birmingham will not face charges.

State Attorney General Steve Marshall announced Tuesday that his investigation found the officer did not break the law and will not be charged in the death of Emantic “E.J.” Bradford Jr.

Bradford's shooting at the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover happened in the immediate aftermath of gunfire at the mall, to which the officer — who has not been identified — was responding.

The attorney general's report says the officer mistakenly believed Bradford had fired the earlier shots and was justified in shooting him. The officer saw Bradford running toward the shooting scene with a gun and believed he was trying to kill the shooting victim, according to the report.

The facts of the case demonstrate that the officer "reasonably exercised his official powers, duties, or functions when he shot E. J. Bradford on the night of Nov. 22, 2018," the report states. Accordingly, Alabama law declares his action “justified and not criminal.”

Two bystanders — Brian Wilson, 18, and Molly Davis, 12, were also injured by the gunfire.

Erron Brown, 20, was charged in November with attempted murder in the shooting of Wilson that happened before the officer opened fire on Bradford.

Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.

Bradford's killing sparked weeks of protest last year.

On Tuesday evening, demonstrators burned two American flags outside Hoover City Hall as police nearby looked on. On the flags were spray painted the words "BLACK LIVES DON'T MATTER."

Demonstrator Carlos Chaverst Jr. told onlookers at the gathering, "His life burned. And now this American flag is going to burn to represent what it’s like to be black in America."

Birmingham activist Frank Matthews vowed civil disobedience in the wake of the attorney general's report, telling journalists earlier Tuesday, "Our action won’t be by permit."

Activist Carlos Chaverst Jr., from center, drops a burning U.S. flag during a protest against the police shooting of a black man in an Alabama shopping mall in Hoover, Ala., on Feb. 5, 2019.Jay Reeves / AP

Police initially described the 21-year-old as the gunman and said officers acted heroically to “take out the threat,” but later corrected themselves and identified Brown as the alleged shooter.

The attorney general, whose office took over the investigation from the local district attorney in Hoover, also released surveillance video and other documents from the investigation.

Bradford's father called the attorney general "a coward" for the report's finding.

“My son was murdered. And you think I’m going to let it go?,” Emantic Sr. told reporters Tuesday. “That was a homicide … You killed my son. You are a coward. You’re a coward too, Steve Marshall.”

Benjamin Crump, an attorney for the Bradford family, said officers stated in the attorney general's report that they did not give Bradford any verbal warning.

“We don’t have any evidence whatsoever that E.J. ever knew the police officers were there whatsoever," Crump said Tuesday. "E.J. went to his grave not knowing who shot him three times in his back."

An eyewitness quoted in the report stated that she heard an officer say, “Drop your weapon, drop your weapon, sir, put your weapon on the ground,” and also say, “He is still not doing anything.”

An independent autopsy showed Bradford was struck three times from behind — in the head, neck and the back.

Crump said that race played a role in Bradford's death and that a civil lawsuit claiming wrongful death will be filed.

"All across America, you see this symbiotic relationship between prosecutors and law enforcement that when they kill unarmed people of color or they kill people of color who are posing no threats, and they shot first and ask questions later," Crump said.

Dennis Romero contributed.