Man killed by police in an Alabama mall was shot from behind, attorney says

Emantic Bradford Jr. wasn’t just wrongfully identified as a mall shooter when he was killed by police. He was shot three times from behind, his family’s attorney said Monday.

A medical review commissioned by Bradford’s family showed the 21-year-old, nicknamed “EJ,” was shot in the head, the neck and near his right hip, attorney Ben Crump said.

“There’s nothing that justifies (the officer) shooting EJ as he’s moving away from him. You’re not a threat when you’re running away,” Crump said.

That doesn’t mean Bradford was trying to run away from police, Crump said. Rather, when gunfire first rang out at the Alabama mall, “witnesses have verified that everybody was running from the gunshots,” he said.

Bradford was at the Riverchase Galleria mall in Hoover on Thanksgiving night. Someone opened fire, wounding an 18-year-old man and a 12-year-old bystander.

Moments later, a Hoover police officer working security at the mall shot and killed Bradford.

At first, police identified Bradford as the assailant. They later changed their story, saying Bradford probably wasn’t the shooter but did have his hand on his gun. (Crump said Bradford had a legal permit to carry a gun in public.)

A week after the mall shooting, authorities identified Erron Martez Dequan Brown as the suspect. Brown is now in custody, charged with attempted murder for wounding the 18-year-old man.

No evidence will be released yet

Many residents in the Birmingham area have called for police to release any body camera footage to the public.

But neither Hoover police nor the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency — which is now leading the investigation — will be releasing evidence in the near future.

Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis issued a statement Monday saying the state’s secretary of law enforcement asked the city to not release any critical information prematurely.

“Secretary (Hal) Taylor reiterated the importance of maintaining the integrity of their investigation. He has specifically asked that we do not release any potential evidence as it may not only jeopardize the integrity of the case, but also complicate or delay their efforts,” Chief Derzis said.

“While we maintain our commitment to be fully transparent during this process, we must respect the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s request for full cooperation and continue to have faith in the judicial process. We want the whole truth, unimpeded and not delayed.”

‘What you have done was destroy my family’

Bradford’s father, Emantic Bradford Sr., called the Hoover police officer who killed his son a “coward.”

“What you have done was destroy my family,” the father said. “You shot a 21-year-old person running away from gunfire.”

The officer, who has not been publicly identified, is on paid administrative leave pending the state’s investigation.

Bradford’s official autopsy report hasn’t been released to the public. Jefferson County Chief Deputy Coroner Bill Yates said Monday the report is finished but he couldn’t comment due to the ongoing investigation.

As the Bradford family waited for information, they commissioned a forensic pathologist to “determine how EJ was killed, how many times he was shot, and whether he was shot from the front or the back,” Crump said.

The pathologist spoke with the chief medical examiner, reviewed autopsy photos and examined Bradford’s body at the funeral home, Crump said.

“This review conclusively documents that EJ was shot three times and that all shots entered his body from the back,” the attorney said.

While the findings from the independent review may upset the public, the Rev. Jesse Jackson asked everyone to stay peaceful.

“Let me say to young people who do protest: Do not diminish the moral authority of EJ,” the civil rights activist said. “Don’t embarrass your family. Don’t make any act that undermines the legal process.”

It’s not clear when authorities will decide whether they believe the shooting was justified. But Crump said he suspects Bradford’s race played a role in his death.

“EJ’s senseless death is the latest egregious example of a black man killed because he was perceived to be a threat due to the color of his skin,” Crump said.