Emantic Bradford Jr. and April Pipkins
Photo: April Pipkins

Never.

It means not ever. No more. The word is as immeasurably tiny as “forever” is long and wide, and “never” is also as unending. Forever is a mighty long time...

But “never” is even longer.

On Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018, after a Hoover, Alabama, police officer shot Emantic Bradford Jr. in Hoover’s Riverchase Galleria mall, Bradford’s mother, April Pipkins, said her Thanksgivings would never be the same.

Pipkins says she found out about the death of her 21-year-old son late Thanksgiving night, hours after the public had already heard about the police shooting.

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“It was all over social media before I found out,” Pipkins told The Root in an interview Monday. “Then one of his friends called because he thought I knew. He asked me how I was doing and I told him, ‘I’m doing OK.’ He said, ‘You haven’t heard, ma?’

“Then he told me my son was dead.”

Compounding the pain from her son’s death is the fact that the Hoover Police Department initially told the media, on camera and in a statement, that Bradford was killed after he shot a 12-year-old and an 18-year old during a fight in the mall. National news outlets had already broadcast the information before the HPD issued a press release recanting the story nearly 24 hours later.

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“In light of how they portrayed him, we still haven’t heard from anyone, Pipkins revealed. “That’s a lack of respect in and of itself,” she said, adding:

They have not called. They have not come to my house. They haven’t come to my mom’s house. They have not come to his father’s house. We haven’t haven’t had any correspondence from anyone.

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Pipkins also confirmed that her son owned a concealed carry permit and that numerous eyewitnesses have given her a different account of the shooting, but the lack of communication and the false statements from the Hoover PD mean she still doesn’t have any idea of what happened in the minutes and seconds before her son’s life was taken.

“I know pretty much what the public knows,” she explained, fighting back tears. “I just want the truth.”

Pipkins has enlisted attorney Benjamin Crump to represent her in her quest for justice. They both noted that they still haven’t heard an official story from the police department and have no idea who shot E.J., or if he had a weapon at all. And now, considering the false narrative that was already spread by Hoover officials, they wonder if they could even trust a story without seeing any evidence.

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“Our request is very straightforward,” Crump told The Root. “You don’t need to say anymore. Show the video.”

“The reason this is so critical is that they’ve already lied on this family once,” Crump added. “They told the world that their son was a shooter and plastered his face all over the worldwide media. After they assassinated his person, they assassinated his character.”

Aside from transparency, Crump and Pipkins noted that surveillance video might restore the public trust and allow the public to help find the person who actually fired a weapon in the mall that evening.

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“We can’t forget that there is an armed shooter on the loose,” Crump explained. “It seems as if the police investigators are more worried about protecting a lone law enforcement officer than they are concerned with keeping the public safe.”

For now, Pipkins said she is depending on her community to put pressure on local and state officials in a call for transparency in the investigation. Asked what she will miss about her son, she said that she is still grappling with the fact that E.J.’s light was extinguished so suddenly and violently, through no fault of his own.

“He never met a stranger and he was such a hard worker, but now E.J. will never get to accomplish his dreams,” Pipkins said. “He was that person that, when you needed a shoulder to cry on, he would be there. He would give you the shirt off his back. He was just a good person.”

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“I can assure you that my Thanksgivings will never be the same. That was the last time I saw my son’s face. And because they shot him in his face, I’ll never get to see it again. Never.”

And for April Pipkins, for any mother who loses a child...

Never is a mighty long time.