An officer who shot a 21-year-old man to death at a mall in Alabama, after mistaking him for a shooter, will not be facing criminal charges. According to the investigation, the officer’s actions were justified, and he was just doing his job.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall shared the decision on Tuesday, stating that after reviewing the case, he concluded the officer, who remains unidentified, didn’t break the law and will not receive criminal charges.
Police patrol. | Photo: Shutterstock
The incident took place last Thanksgiving at the Riverchase Galleria mall in Hoover, Alabama. Emantic “EJ” Bradford Jr., was shot three times, in the head, neck, and back, according to the autopsy, by a police officer who was on duty on the mall.
According to reports, shots were fired at the mall, prompting shoppers to look for cover and run for their safety. The officer, acting in consistency with his training, draw his own gun and turned toward the sound of the gunfire. He then watched an injured man, identified as 18-year-old Brian Wilson, near a railing and another person trying to help him.
Emantic Bradford Jr. was shot by mistake on November 22, 2018. | Photo: YouTube/CBS Evening News
Bradford, the officer said, was walking towards them with a gun in his hand. So, believing Bradford was the initial gunman and that he was going to kill the victim and the bystander, the officer opened fire.
“The suspect was advancing on the two males and had a black handgun in his right hand,” the officer said. “I fired my duty weapon at the armed suspect to stop him.”
He also stated he didn’t have time to issue a verbal warning to Bradford, “due to the quickness of the event and the immediate threat Bradford posed” to the other two.
In initial reports, police identified Bradford as the gunman, praising the officer for his quick reaction. But they had to backtrack the declarations after Erron Brown, 20, was arrested and identified as the first gunman.
He was charged in November with attempted murder in the shooting of Wilson.
The decision not to charge the officer in the murder of Bradford caused outrage among his family, friends, and supporters, who have been demanding for justice and said EJ’s only crime was “being black.”
Bradford's father, Emantic Sr., told reporters on Tuesday:
“My son was murdered. And you think I’m going to let it go? That was a homicide… You killed my son. You are a coward. You’re a coward too, Steve Marshall.”
Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for the Bradford family, said that “E.J. went to his grave not knowing who shot him three times in his back.” He also stated that despite what the officer might believe, EJ faced no threat, as shown in released footage from the crime scene, and he was just trying to help the victim.
“E.J. Bradford did nothing wrong on that video," Crump stated. "Look at that video for yourself — he was not part of the initial confrontation, he runs away and gets his gun as he goes back to protect his friend, as he had every right to do."
Despite the protests and anger call outs from the Bradford family, Attorney General Marshall believes the officer’s actions were not “unpresentable.”
“A reasonable person could have assumed that the only person with a gun who was running toward the victim of a shooting that occurred just three seconds earlier fired the shots,” he said. And added:
“While it is now known that EJ Bradford did not shoot [the gunshot victim,] Bradford still posed an immediate deadly threat to persons in the area."
After the decision was made public, demonstrators burned two American flags with the words “Black Lives Don’t Matter” painted on them outside Hoover City Hall. Activist 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."
Bradford’s family and supporters believe the case is just another proof of the existent racial bias in the police and the fact that officers see any black man with a gun as a threat. It sparks memories of the case that started the entire Black Lives Matter movement back in 2012 when officer George Zimmerman was acquitted in the killing of Trayvon Martin.
Dillon Nettles, a policy analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, said in a statement:
“Regardless of what the attorney general of Alabama said in his report, EJ Bradford’s life mattered. Black lives matter. We won’t stay quiet while law enforcement continues to inflict lethal violence against black people and attempt to justify it.”
April Pipkins, EJ's mother, holds a photo of her late son as she demands justice. | Photo: YouTube/NBC News
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