Crime & Justice

Alabama Police Officer Will Not Be Charged In Fatal Shooting Of Mistaken Gunman

April Pipkins holds a photograph of her deceased son, Emantic
April Pipkins holds a photograph of her deceased son, Emantic "EJ" Bradford Jr., who was slain by a police officer who mistook him for a gunman in an Alabama mall shooting on Thanksgiving night.
Jay Reeves/AP

An Alabama police officer who shot and killed a man he mistook for the gunman in a mall shooting will not be charged with a crime, the state's attorney general announced Tuesday.

Emantic "EJ" Bradford Jr., 21, was killed by an officer whose name has not been released and is only identified as "Officer 1" on Thanksgiving night inside the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover, Ala. The officer, who was responding to an earlier shooting at the mall, mistook Bradford for the gunman.

Minutes before, another man, Erron Brown, shot and wounded 18-year-old Brian Wilson twice.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall released a 26-page report concluding that the officer was "justified and not criminal" in fatally shooting Bradford "who was running toward the initial shooter and victim with a firearm visibly in hand."

The report says "Officer 1's mistaken belief does not render his actions unreasonable."

"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 concludes.

Bradford's family reacted with outrage.

"My son was murdered. And you think I'm going to let it go?," said Emantic Bradford Sr. as quoted by AL.com. "That was a homicide... you killed my son. You are a coward. You're a coward too, Steve Marshall."

"The police shot, we believe, because they feared a black man with a gun," said an attorney for the Bradford family, Ben Crump.

The police initially claimed that Bradford was a suspect in the mall shooting.

"But then the next day they said that Bradford likely was not the man involved in the original shooting and that set off waves of protest and unrest, said reporter GiGi Douban of NPR member station WBHM on All Things Considered.

"So you saw marchers demonstrating in front of the mayor's house, they stopped traffic on busy streets and interstates, and for a time they protested daily at stores across the area as the investigation dragged on with few details," Douban added.

Attorney General Marshall also released two 13-second video clips from shopping mall surveillance cameras. One shows Bradford running and then falling as he is shot from behind three times. An autopsy showed that he was hit in the back of the head, neck and lower back.

The surveillance footage provided no sound, according to the report, which concludes that "it is unclear" if Officer 1 gave Bradford any verbal commands before shooting him. The officer reported that "he did not give any commands due to the imminent nature of the threat," but two eyewitnesses said they heard such commands.

Neither Officer 1, nor his partner, referred to as Officer 2, had turned on the body cameras they were wearing.

Marshall's statement provides links to his report and the video.

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