By Kim Chandler
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — An Alabama police officer will not face charges for killing a man he mistook for the gunman in a mall shooting, the state’s attorney general announced Tuesday.
His announcement drew outrage from the slain man’s family, who said the officer jumped to conclusions when he saw a young black man with a gun.
An officer shot 21-year-old Emantic “EJ” Bradford, Jr. while responding to an earlier shooting on Thanksgiving night at a mall in Hoover, Alabama.
Attorney General Steve Marshall announced Tuesday that his investigation concluded “the officer did not commit a crime” and that he would not present the case to a grand jury. Marshall said he considered the matter closed.
Marshall found the officer acted “reasonably under the circumstances” in the encounter that spanned approximately five seconds, from the initial gunfire to the officer shooting Bradford. A 26-page report released by Marshall’s office said the officer mistakenly believed Bradford fired the earlier shots. But the report also said the Hoover officer, whose name has not been released, was still justified in shooting him because of the threat he posed.
The report said the officer saw Bradford running toward the scene with a gun and believed he was trying to kill the wounded shooting victim or harm others. The shooting victim was actually Bradford’s friend, with whom he had been at the mall that evening.
“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,” the report found.
The report also stated that Bradford, who had a gun drawn, “posed an immediate deadly threat to persons in the area.”
Marshall released two 10-second clips from surveillance cameras at the shopping mall. The video shows an officer shooting Bradford from behind as Bradford is running. An autopsy found that Bradford was shot three times: once in back of the head, once in his neck and once in his lower back, according to the report.
The report said that the officer told investigators that he did not turn on his body camera from standby mode because there was “no time.”
The report also said it was “unclear” if verbal commands were issued for Bradford to stop running. The officer told investigators he did not issue verbal commands, although two witnesses said they heard them, the report stated.
Bradford’s family reacted with anger to the attorney general’s conclusions.
“The attorney general, he’s in bed with Hoover. Bottom line. He covered it up. He sanitized it just so the officer could get off with murdering my son,” Emantic Bradford Sr. told reporters.
Ben Crump, an attorney representing the family, said his clients “will have their day in court.” “The police shot, we believe, because they feared a black man with a gun,” Crump said.
Crump said the video shows Bradford “did nothing wrong” and that the young man drew his gun to protect his friends.
“He was really the hero in all of this,” Bradford’s mother, April Pipkins, told reporters.
The officer-involved shooting sparked weeks of protests during the Christmas shopping season in the city heavily dependent on retail sales. The decision by the attorney general clearing the officer of wrongdoing reignited calls for protests, which began later Tuesday.
Protesters burned two American flags outside Hoover City Hall and vowed intensified protests at schools, businesses and homes in response to the state’s decision against prosecuting the officer who shot Bradford.
“This flag won’t mean nothing to me until black lives matter,” demonstration leader Carlos Chaverst Jr. said as he lit a flag. More than a half-dozen officers watched from a few feet away.
Demonstrators, including members of Bradford’s family, will travel to Montgomery on Wednesday to stage a protest at the attorney general’s office, said one of the organizers, Frank Matthews.