An Alabama police officer was justified in killing an armed Black man he mistook for the gunman in a Thanksgiving Day shooting at a local mall, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall ruled Tuesday.
In his report, Marshall concluded the officer did not break the law when he opened fire on 21-year-old Emantic “EJ” Bradford Jr. at the Riverchase Galleria Mall in Hoover, and argued the facts of the case didn’t warrant going to a grand jury to seek criminal charges against the unnamed officer.
“After an extensive investigation and review, the Attorney General has determined Officer 1 didn’t commit a crime under Alabama law when he shot and killed EJ Bradford and thus the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct preclude presentation of this case to a grand jury,” the report states.
It continues: “The facts of this case demonstrate that Officer 1 reasonably exercised his official powers, duties, or functions when he shot” Bradford.
Attorney Benjamin Crump, who’s representing the Bradford family, expressed disbelief at Marshall’s decision to absolve the officer of any wrongdoing.
“When you look at that report, it is bias 100 percent to exonerate the police of murder,” Crump said during a news conference Tuesday, adding that “reasonable minds would’ve said, ‘This needs to have a trial by jury.'” Additionally, Crump objected to Marshall taking over the case from the local district attorney, who is Black.
According to the report, the officer gunned down the Army veteran after mistakenly believing Bradford had fired the earlier shots inside the mall. The officer reportedly saw Bradford rushing toward the scene with a gun “in a ready position” and thought he was the shooter. Bradford was killed with three shots from behind, according to the autopsy and video evidence.
An 18-year-old male and a 12-year-old girl were injured in the incident.
Hoover police initially identified Bradford, who had a concealed carry permit the night he was killed, as the gunman but quickly backtracked after realizing they had shot and killed the wrong man. Bradford’s family said he drew his weapon to protect himself and others during the shooting.
“He was really the hero in all of this. He did nothing wrong,” Bradford’s mother, April Pipkins, said after Marshall’s report was released.
As part of their probe, the State Bureau of Investigation conducted dozens of witness interviews and pored over mountains of evidence, including surveillance footage, police body camero video and cellphone videos taken by frantic shoppers, according to the report. Authorities later arrested 20-year-old Erron Brown as actual gunman who opened fire at the mall. Brown is now charged with attempted murder.
News of the officers’ clearing has sparked intense protests across Hoover. The Associated Press reported that demonstrators burned two American flags outside Hoover City Hall on Tuesday night.
Protest leader Carlos Chaverst Jr. told the outlet the U.S. flag won’t mean a thing to him “until Black lives matter.” Members of Bradford’s family joined a group in Alabama capital of Montgomery on Wednesday in staging protests outside the attorney general’s office.