There was no “maybe.”
When the Hoover, Ala., police department explained why one of their officers shot and killed 21-year-old Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr. in an Alabama mall on Thursday night, they didn’t say “maybe.” They said they knew their brave officer had stopped an active shooter. They did not equivocate. They told the world that they had killed a criminal.
Now they are saying maybe they made a mistake.
Late Thursday evening, police officers from the Birmingham, Ala., suburb of Hoover responded to reports of shots being fired in the Riverchase Galleria Mall. News reports painted a chaotic scene with multiple injuries. Photos and videos of the injured and dead victims circulated on social media.
In the aftermath, the Hoover Police Department issued a statement and held a press conference telling a simple story: Two young men began fighting inside the mall. One man drew a gun and shot an 18-year-old man twice. He also shot a 12-year-old. As the gunman fled, cops saw him, he “brandished” a pistol and the police shot the suspect dead. The end.
“Yesterday, at 9:52 p.m., two males engaged in a physical altercation,” read the statement from the Hoover Police Department, adding:
During the fight, one of the males produced a handgun and shot the other male twice in the torso. Two uniformed Hoover police officers providing security at the mall were in close proximity and heard the gunshots. While moving toward the scene, one of the officers encountered a suspect brandishing a pistol and shot him. That individual, a 21-year-old male from Hueytown, was pronounced deceased on the scene.
That “suspect” was Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., whom HPD Captain Greg Rector had already publicly described as an armed shooter who shot an 18-year-old and a child in a crowded shopping area.
Thus began the debate.
Even though police had encountered a dangerous criminal who had just shot someone, a few locals wondered if the officers had to kill him. Some pointed out the countless non-black individuals who had been subdued by the Hoover police.
Others, however, blamed it on the black “thugs.” Before there was even an investigation, some had already shrugged off Bradford’s death as a consequence of his own criminal actions.
Then, late Friday evening, the Hoover police chief issued another statement about the 21-year-old who they shot, killed and—before his body was even cold—told his community he had unquestionably shot a teenager twice in plain view and endangered hundreds of other citizens.
The Hoover Police Department said: Oops.
“New evidence suggests that while Mr. Bradford was likely involved in some aspect of the altercation,” the statement said, “he likely did not fire the rounds that injured the 18-year-old victim.”
“We regret that our initial media release was not totally accurate,” the news release continued, “but new evidence suggests it was not.”
See? They apologized.
Bradford, known to family and friends as “E.J.,” had enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school, according to the Hoover Sun. So far, Bradford’s family, including his father who works as a law enforcement officer, has declined comment on Bradford Jr.’s death.
The Hoover police department says they are still searching for the initial shooting suspect. They also still insist that Bradford brandished a handgun while engaging an officer.
Until tomorrow ...