Hoover, AL – State officials announced that an investigation had determined the officer-involved shooting of Emantic “EJ” Bradford Jr. on Thanksgiving night at the Riverchase Galleria was justified (video below).
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office conducted a two-month-long investigation of the incident that took place shortly before 10 p.m. on Nov. 22 when the mall opened up for early Black Friday sales.
The attorney general’s report does not name the involved officer, and instead refers to him as “Officer 1.”
“After an extensive investigation and review, the Attorney General has determined Officer 1 did not commit a crime under Alabama law when he shot and killed E.J. Bradford and thus the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct preclude presentation of this case to a grand jury,” the report announced.
“The facts of this case demonstrate that Officer 1 reasonably exercised his official powers, duties, or functions when he shot [Bradford],” the report concluded.
The attorney general’s report said that two shootings occurred at the Riverchase Galleria that night.
First, Erron Brown shot 18-year-old Brian Wilson twice, and then a Hoover police officer responding to the gunfire fatally shot Bradford, after he spotted him running towards a crowd of people with his weapon drawn.
The two officers who were the first to respond had been nearby in the mall on routine patrol when the shots rang out, according to the report.
Hoover police initially believed Bradford had shot Wilson and heralded its officers as heroes who had stopped the mall shooter to the news media.
But they had to retract that statement shortly thereafter and explain what had actually happened.
Surveillance videos captured by J.C. Penney and FootAction stores inside the mall showed both shootings and helped investigators determine exactly what occurred on Thanksgiving night.
“Synchronizing these videos suggests the following chain of events, which spans approximately five seconds. Erron Brown shoots Brian Wilson, then along with his companions, runs into JC Penney,” the report explained. “E.J. Bradford initially runs in the opposite direction (away from JC Penney), creating a gap between himself and the gunshots. As he creates this gap, Bradford draws his weapon and chambers a round.”
“Bradford then charges back toward JC Penney, gun drawn. Officer 1 shoots Bradford as Bradford is running toward Brian Wilson (the gunshot victim), AC (who is assisting Wilson), Erron Brown (the initial shooter), and several innocent bystanders,” the report read.
The video showed that the two officers approached Bradford from the rear three seconds after the first gunshots were heard.
Then one officer opened fire and fatally shot Bradford.
The officer fired four rounds and three struck Bradford, according to the attorney general’s report.
In the video, Bradford was running with a pistol in his hand and fell as he was shot.
His pistol hit the floor and slid several feet away from him, the video showed.
“Me and [Officer 2] were standing over there. We heard two shots. And I turned around; we drew our guns. That guy [E.J. Bradford] was running toward them with a gun in his hand. I shot him,” the officer explained at the scene, according to the attorney general’s report.
An eyewitness to Bradford’s shooting told investigators that she had also believed Bradford had shot Wilson when the incident was occurring.
The eyewitness told police she was in fear for her life, and the lives of the officers and other people in the mall, according to the report.
The attorney general’s office determined that the officer acted reasonably when he shot Bradford, and did so in accordance with nationally-accepted standards for “active shooter” scenarios.
The fact that the officer was mistaken in believing Bradford to be the shooter at the time he shot him does not mean his actions were unreasonable, the attorney general’s report concluded.
“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 said.
In fact, three other eyewitnesses told investigators they had also believed Bradford was the original shooter.
After the department retracted their statements, his associates spread the story of how he was an army veteran who drew his gun in self-defense.
Media reports then stated that Bradford was a combat engineer in the U.S. Army, which is what his Facebook page listed as his occupation.
The U.S. Army responded that he was never a soldier because he didn't complete AIT. An attorney for Bradford's family said that Bradford had received an honorable discharge, according to The Washington Post.
However, The New York Times says that he had received a general discharge, which is not an honorable discharge.
Protest organizers said they’re planning to rally supporters to take to the streets again on Wednesday, AL.com reported.
Demonstrators surrounded the Hoover mayor’s house during the protests immediately after the shooting.
You can see the video referred to in the attorney general’s report below: