Police Fatally Shoot Misidentified Young Black Man in Alabama Mall


Family of shooting victim Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr. gather at Kelly Ingram Park. (AL.com)

A week after police shot and killed a Black security guard who had detained a shooting suspect at a Chicago area bar, an Alabama police officer shot a young Black man in a Birmingham area mall on Thanksgiving night after another man shot and wounded two patrons.

Police responded to the Riverchase Galleria after a gunman shot an 18-year-old man during a fight and a stray bullet hit a 12-year-old girl. Hoover police announced on Thursday that the gunman was 21-year-old Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., and said he was brandishing a gun when a “heroic” officer shot him to death. 

Late on Friday, police admitted that was “not totally accurate” and said in a statement that new evidence showed it was “highly unlikely” that Mr. Bradford fired the shots that injured two people. Police now believe at least one shooter remains at large, BBC News reported on Sunday. The officer who killed Mr. Bradford has reportedly been placed on administrative leave.

About 200 people marched in protest over the weekend. Mr. Bradford’s family has called on the police to release to the public all video footage from the mall that day.

Mr. Bradford’s mother, April Pipkins, told the New York Times that her son was licensed to carry a firearm, and that he may have been trying to protect shoppers. “That was not his character at all,” she said. “He loved life, and he loved people.”

Mr. Bradford’s father, E.J. Bradford Sr., is a retired Birmingham jail employee who told NPR that he considers law enforcement officers to be family. But he said Sunday that Hoover police “vilified my son,” and even though he called Hoover police after learning about the shooting on social media that night, police still have not contacted him about his son’s death.

This morning, Hoover police released a statement saying that “Mr. Bradford brandished a gun during the seconds following the gunshots, which instantly heightened the sense of threat to approaching police officers responding to the chaotic scene.” The statement said body camera video and other video was turned over to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, which is now leading the investigation.

AL.com reported that people fled through the food court after shots were fired on the second floor of the mall shortly before 10 p.m., and in the chaos, “several shoppers were seen with their guns drawn.” Alabama law broadly allows licensed gun owners to carry concealed firearms. 

A uniformed police officer working as a security guard reportedly shot Mr. Bradford in the face in front of a shoe store on the second floor. The Washington Post reported that cellphone video shows officers standing over Mr. Bradford and pinning someone else to the ground. “That boy didn’t shoot at nobody. He’s dead!” a man down the corridor says.

At a press conference on Sunday, the family’s attorney, Ben Crump, said several witnesses who have come forward since the shooting say the officer who killed Mr. Bradford did not give any verbal commands to him before shooting him in the face.

Mr. Crump also said that witnesses have reported that Mr. Bradford was trying to guide people away from the area where the shooting happened, that his gun was tucked in his waistband, and that as he lay dying on the mall floor, police did not allow a nurse who was nearby to attend to him.

EJI has been arguing that a national effort is needed to confront America’s history of racial injustice.  The unfair presumption that people of color are guilty and dangerous will continue to lead to tragic shootings until we commit to confronting implicit bias in the criminal justice system as well as the overt bias that endangers Black and brown people during many police encounters.