Alabama officials announced Tuesday that after reviewing the Thanksgiving shooting death of Emantic Fitzgerald “EJ” Bradford Jr.—who was killed by police after officers mistook him for a shooter at a local mall—the state’s attorney general has decided not to file any criminal charges.
“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 full report notes.
“The facts of this case demonstrate that Officer 1 reasonably exercised his official powers, duties, or functions,” it adds.
The tragedy began on Thanksgiving night, when a shooting broke out in Alabama’s Riverchase Galleria in Hoover.
At 9:51 p.m., the report states, a man named Erron Brown shot 18-year-old Brian Wilson near a JC Penney and fled inside the store. Patrons reportedly screamed and ran from the scene, alerting two officers who were standing outside of a nearby Spencer’s.
The report claims that within seconds, the officers saw Bradford running towards the shooting scene “with a firearm visibly in hand.” Surveillance video of the encounter, publicly released at the request of Bradford’s family, shows a person who appears to be Bradford, 21, sprinting away from officers and in the opposite direction of fleeing mall-goers before he’s shot three times in the back, neck, and head, and falls to the ground. After suffering “a catastrophic wound” on the right side of his head,” the report notes, Bradford died.
In statements taken after the shooting, “Officer 1” claimed that he believed Bradford planned to murder Brian Wilson—who lay injured in front of a sneaker store—and the man who appeared to be helping him, and that he didn’t have time to issue warnings due to the “quickness of the event and the immediate threat Bradford posed.”
“Officer 1 identified E.J. Bradford as an immediate deadly threat to innocent civilians and thus shot Bradford to eliminate the threat,” the report notes. “Officer 1’s actions were reasonable under the circumstances and were consistent with his training and nationally-accepted standards for ‘active shooter’ scenarios.”
The attorney general’s announcement comes after officials have been repeatedly criticized for how the shooting and its aftermath was handled.
Soon after Bradford’s death, the Hoover Police Department boasted that a “heroic” officer had killed the man responsible for the shooting—but quickly backtracked once they realized their mistake. They later appeared to blame Bradford for his own death, writing in a statement that his decision to pull out his gun, which he was legally allowed to own, “instantly heightened the sense of threat to approaching police officers.”
Bradford’s family—who claimed that they were never contacted by police about the fatal shooting, and instead found out about it on the news—decried Tuesday’s decision, berating the attorney general for not meeting with them directly before releasing the report.
“I want to know, attorney: If that was your child, would you consider this justice? Would anybody consider this justice? You shoot my child three times, and you call this justice,” Bradford’s mother, April Pipkins, said.
“Do we really abide by the Constitution?” she asked, “or does the color of your skin determine it?”
“[The attorney general is] in bed with Hoover,” said E.J. Bradford Sr., Bradford’s father. “Bottom line. He covered it up. He sanitized it, just so these officers can get off with murdering my son.”
“You didn’t have the nerve or the decency to come up here and meet me face to face as a man,” he added. “You are a coward.”
Benjamin Crump—a civil-rights attorney hired by Bradford’s family who also represented the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice—condemned the decision, as well.
“He did absolutely nothing wrong on that video,” Crump said. “The police shot, we believe, because they feared a black man with a gun.”
“It was a cover up in the first degree,” Crump added. “This attorney general orchestrated taking this case from the first elected black district attorney so he could cover up for this white police officer.”