Hoover, AL — On Thanksgiving night, an armed assailant opened fire inside an Alabama shopping mall, shooting an 18-year-old male and a 12-year-old girl. Shortly after the shots rang out, a Hoover police officer engaged a man with a gun, opened fire and killed him. Police then released a statement championing their officer and patting themselves on the back for stopping a potential mass shooting. But the man they shot was not the shooter.
On Friday, police issued the following statement describing what happened.
…two males engaged in a physcal altercation on the second floor concourse area of the Riverchase Galleria, near the entrance to the Footaction. During the fight, one of the males produced a handgun and shot the other male twice in the torso. Two uniformed Hover Police officers providing security at the mall were in close proximity and heard the gunshots. While moving toward the schooting scene, one of the officers encountered a suspect brandishing a pistol and shot him. That individual, a 21-year-old male from Hueytown, was pronounced dead at the scene.”
After this original statement, however, police were forced to retract it and quickly issued an update. Authorities initially thought Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., known as E.J., was the shooter—but he was not.
Late Friday, after they already assassinated his character, police changed their story, saying that while Bradford was involved in “some aspect of the altercation” and was armed with a handgun, he likely did not fire the rounds that injured the two others.
“We regret that our initial media release was not totally accurate, but new evidence indicates that it was not,” Hoover police spokesman Capt. Gregg Rector said.
The police were forced to issue the retraction so quickly, not in the name of transparency, but for the public’s safety because the real gunman is still at large.
“Not only did they assassinate his person but they truly assassinated his character,” high profile attorney Benjamin Crump said at a news conference. “[The officer] saw a black man with a gun and he made his determination that he must be a criminal.”
According to Crump, Bradford was standing over the wounded 18-year-old victim, trying to defuse the situation when police shot first and “asked questions later because he was a black man.”
As ABC news reports, Crump said Bradford was carrying a handgun but was licensed to do so. Alabama is an “open carry” state, meaning he did not require a permit to openly carry the handgun, as long as it was holstered.
Bradford was honorably discharged from the Army due to an injury, according to his parents, who clutched a photo of him in uniform during an interview with ABC News Saturday and at the news conference on Sunday.
On Sunday, protesters gathered at the mall to demand “Justice for EJ.”
Bradford’s family said his death left them shocked and devastated.
“EJ 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 are working diligently with our legal team to determine exactly what happened and why this police officer killed our son. We will never forget EJ, and ask for your continued prayers during this incredibly difficult time.”
This case is similar to a story from earlier this month in which a “good guy with a gun” was killed by police. The tragedy unfolded earlier this month after a hero security guard stopped what was quickly becoming a deadly mass shooting, only to be shot by police moments later police. Jemel Roberson, 26, was working security at a local night club when his heroism got him killed.
In both cases, the NRA remained entirely silent.