Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr. went into Alabama’s largest mall on Thanksgiving evening looking to do some shopping, but never made it out alive.
Now, the family of the man they knew as EJ is demanding to know why police shot and killed him in an apparent case of mistaken identity during a shooting. As CNN reported, a police officer fatally shot Bradford at close to 10 p.m. CST on Thursday inside the Riverchase Galleria in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover. Police had initially claimed that Bradford opened fire during a fight, injuring two other people, but as the investigation continued they found that Bradford did not fire any shots. Instead, the real gunman escaped the mall and remains at large.
“Over the past 20 hours, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office investigators and crime scene technicians have interviewed numerous individuals and examined several critical evidentiary items,” police Captain Gregg Rector said in a news release (via the Hoover Sun). “New evidence now suggests that while Mr. Bradford may have been involved in some aspect of the altercation, he likely did not fire the rounds that injured the 18-year-old victim.”
Grieving family members are demanding an explanation from police. “They killed him for no reason at all. He wasn’t the shooter,” his aunt, Catherine Jewell (via WSB-TV). “He was a great guy. He was very respectable… They did him wrong.” The family has retained civil rights attorney Benjamin L. Crump, who also represented the family of Trayvon Martin after the teen was shot to death in Florida in 2012.
It is not just the family demanding answers of Hoover police. On Saturday, crowds of protesters gathered at the Riverchase Galleria, holding sings that read “Stop police killings” and “Black Lives Matter.” As WBRC reported, many of them also demanded to know why Bradford was mistaken for the shooter.
“I have two young black brothers who attend Hoover High School, both play for Hoover High school team. This could have easily been one of them,” one of the protesters told WBRC.
Witnesses had described the shooting as a chaotic scene, with the gunshots causing large crowd of people to run for cover, some hiding in storage closets within stores.
Police have not yet said why Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr. was killed during the Riverchase Galleria shooting, and have not yet identified the actual suspect who opened fire, injuring two people. Both of the others shot during the incident were taken to hospitals and are recovering from their injuries.