A report released by the state’s attorney general’s office says that the officer “reasonably exercised” his power when he shot Emantic “EJ” Fitzgerald Bradford Jr. three times. In the seconds-long chaos of that Thanksgiving night, the officer saw Bradford holding a gun, just feet away from a man who had just been shot. He saw the 21-year-old as “an immediate deadly threat to innocent civilians,” the report says, even though Bradford never fired his gun.
The 26-page report pieced together the rapid sequence of events that began with two gunshots just before 10 p.m. on Nov. 22, during early Black Friday shopping at the Galleria.
The announcement comes after months of investigation into the shooting, during which police repeatedly changed their story about what happened. Shortly after the shooting on November 22, police claimed that Bradford had shot at least one person at the Riverchase Galleria mall prior to the police shooting. But police later acknowledged that Bradford didn’t shoot anyone, and arrested another man for the initial shooting. [MORE]
Erron Brown, the man who police later said was the actual shooter, allegedly shot 18-year-old Brian Wilson on the mall’s second-floor walkway and left him lying outside a JC Penney store. Brown ran toward the store as mall shoppers scurried away. Bradford, who was nearby, ran in the opposite direction. But he then turned around and headed toward the JC Penney and Wilson, with his gun drawn, the report says. It states:
“The facts of this case demonstrate that Officer 1 reasonably exercised his official powers, duties, or functions when he shot E.J. Bradford. Officer 1 and his partner (“Officer 2”) were on duty in the Galleria when they heard two gunshots approximately 75 feet away.
Officers 1 and 2 immediately moved toward the gunshots. Within three seconds, they encountered E.J. Bradford, who held a firearm in a ready position, then charged forward:
Several persons were in Bradford’s path. Immediately before him, Brian Wilson lay on the ground, bleeding from his gunshot wounds, and 18-year-old (“AC”) stood over Wilson. Beyond them, Erron Brown (the initial shooter) and his companions were running into JC Penney, while several innocent bystanders were scrambling for cover:
Officer 1 identified E.J. Bradford as an immediate deadly threat to innocent civilians and thus shot Bradford to eliminate the threat.”
Witnesses told investigators that they heard the officer tell Bradford to drop his weapon. But the officer told investigators that he was unable to give verbal commands because of the “quickness of the event” and the “immediate threat” he believed Bradford posed, according to the report.
The report says that the officer mistakenly believed Bradford shot the victim “does not render his actions unreasonable,” the report says.
“First, 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 says, adding that the other officer and two other witnesses all said that, at that moment, they also believed Bradford was the shooter. The report states:
“Officer 1’s actions were reasonable under the circumstances and were consistent with his training and nationally-accepted standards for “active shooter” scenarios. Accordingly, Officer 1’s actions do not constitute a crime under Alabama law, see Ala. Code § 13A-3-22, and therefore should not be presented to a grand jury for potential criminal prosecution. See Rule 3.8(a), Alabama Rules for Professional Conduct.”
Bradford was licensed to carry a firearm, and it’s not illegal in Alabama to carry a gun in public.
Brown, 20, has been charged with attempted murder. His attorneys said he shot Wilson in self-defense, according to the report, which did not say how the two men knew each other. There has been no evidence that Bradford was involved in the shooting, and it remains unclear why he drew his gun.
The report also did not say whether he knew that the officers were behind him. Although the officer was wearing a body camera, he did not activate it before he shot Bradford. There was “no time” to do so, he told investigators.
Bradford’s parents and a family attorney said earlier that he had a concealed-handgun license. The officer, who was not named, was placed on administrative leave after the shooting, though it was not immediately clear if he has been reinstated. The Hoover Police Department have not responded to a request for comment Wednesday.
Bradford’s death last November reignited racial tensions in Alabama, where protesters marched through the Riverchase Galleria in the city of Hoover, demanding why police killed a black man who may not have had anything to do with the shooting.
Now, more than two months later, the decision to not charge the officer has renewed that outrage. On Tuesday evening, protesters outside Hoover City Hall burned American flags spray-painted with “BLACK LIVES DON’T MATTER,” as police officers watched from a short distance. Frank Matthews, one of the organizers, told the Associated Press that demonstrators, including Bradford’s relatives, will travel to Montgomery, Ala., on Wednesday to protest outside the office of Attorney General Steve Marshall.
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."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.