Mother of man killed by police at Alabama mall ponders open casket as family seeks justice

As civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump blasted police on Sunday for the fatal shooting of a black man at an...

Posted: Nov 26, 2018 3:56 PM
Updated: Nov 26, 2018 3:56 PM

As civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump blasted police on Sunday for the fatal shooting of a black man at an Alabama mall, a relative holding photos of the man collapsed, wailing.

As family members helped her up and consoled her, she kept repeating a detail that Crump had just offered reporters: Emantic Bradford Jr. had been shot in the face.

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Crump and family members accused the Hoover Police Department officer who shot Bradford of rushing to judgment, failing to provide a warning before shooting and declining to provide medical assistance to the 21-year-old they knew as EJ.

"He saw a black man with a gun and he made his determination that he must be a criminal," Crump said, flanked by about two dozen of Bradford's relatives. "They concluded their investigation while EJ was (lying) on the mall floor, bleeding out, dying. ... There's a murderer on the loose largely because police rushed to judgment."

Police initially said Bradford had shot and injured two people, before saying he was probably not the shooter. Police have not identified the suspect, who is at large.

Bradford's family demanded that investigators immediately release all video of the incident. They also claimed Hoover police never contacted them before the initial report or after correcting it, leaving them to glean details from social media and other police agencies.

"Not only did they assassinate his person, but they truly assassinated his character," Crump said.

In an appearance later on CNN, Bradford's father, who spent 25 years as a correctional officer, said he was frustrated with the response from Hoover police. Bradford Sr. said he considers his colleagues in law enforcement family and his son knew members of the Hoover Police Department.

"I feel like you should've reached out to me and his mother," Bradford said. "That's not protocol for you just to do something, kill my child and not respond when we're calling you."

In a CNN interview Monday, his mother, April Pipkins, said, "My Thanksgiving will never be the same. I will never be able to see my son's face again or to look into his eyes or to hear him say, 'Mom, I love you.' ... Not even knowing if I'll be able to have an open casket, to see him again. I am just at a loss of words right now."

Crump said Bradford's parents "knew the child they had raised" wasn't the shooter. "They knew it wasn't true even before the police retracted their statement," the attorney said.

Protesters call for justice

The officer killed Bradford about 10 p.m. Thursday at the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover, a Birmingham suburb.

Police first said he got into an altercation at the mall and opened fire, injuring two people, 12 and 18.

An officer encountered an armed Bradford fleeing the scene and shot him, police said.

After conducting forensic tests and talking to witnesses, investigators said Bradford might have been involved in the altercation but likely did not fire the rounds that injured the victims.

Photos and videos from the scene show a man on the ground outside a shoe store on an upper floor, bleeding heavily onto the mall's cream tile floor. Several police are on the scene, including officers who appear to handcuff a man nearby.

Hoover police referred CNN's questions to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, which has taken the lead role in the investigation. The agency said it would have an update Sunday afternoon.

With signs reading "Justice for EJ" and "Black Lives Matter," dozens of demonstrators gathered outside the mall Saturday, footage from CNN affiliate WVTM shows.

"No justice, no peace," they shouted. "No racist police."

They called for the officer who shot Bradford to be arrested for murder.

The officer is on administrative leave during an investigation, police said. Hoover police also will conduct an internal investigation, Capt. Gregg Rector said.

'He loved people, period'

Relatives have demanded answers but say police haven't provided any. Bradford's uncle, Anthony Thomas, told reporters he would not stop fighting until he saw justice.

"My son was a loving -- very loving -- young man. He would give any of you the shirt off his back," his mother told reporters Sunday. "He loved people, period. He was not a killer."

Bradford had no criminal record, Crump said. He was a caretaker for his father, who is battling cancer, worked full time and helped his mother financially. He had a concealed weapon permit for the gun he was carrying that day, Crump said.

"EJ was a devoted son and brother, who dedicated his life to serving his country and always doing the right thing," his family said in a statement.

"As we continue to grieve, rest assured that we are working diligently with our legal team to determine exactly what happened and why this police officer killed our son. We will never forget EJ, and ask for your continued prayers during this incredibly difficult time."

"They killed him for no reason at all. He wasn't the shooter," his aunt, Catherine Jewell, told reporters. "He was a great guy. He was very respectable. ... They did him wrong."

Though Bradford's Facebook page says he was a US Army engineer, he did not complete advanced individual training and did not serve, said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Manny Ortiz. Crump told reporters he was honorably discharged.

Chaos at the mall

Witnesses to the shooting at Alabama's largest enclosed mall described chaos, with customers screaming and staff working to help people escape or hide.

"They (put) us in supply closets and locked the doors. And then we sat there for five to 10 minutes, all freaking out," Lexie Joyner told CNN affiliate WBRC. "And then they opened the escape-route doors, and we escaped."

That police would so quickly rescind their account is unusual, CNN senior law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes said Saturday. But because new information pointed to a gunman on the loose, they had to do so for the public's sake, he said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 512632

Reported Deaths: 10262
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34853555
DeSoto33162432
Hinds32556641
Jackson24830389
Rankin22442402
Lee16238242
Madison14874283
Jones14086247
Forrest13741259
Lauderdale12249324
Lowndes11286193
Lamar10644140
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Monroe6989179
Pontotoc6970109
Warren6849178
Panola6746134
Neshoba6726210
Marshall6653141
Bolivar6440151
Union633897
Pike5924156
Alcorn5862107
Lincoln5525136
George510180
Prentiss500884
Tippah490282
Itawamba4829107
Scott477499
Adams4766125
Tate4748116
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Copiah455895
Yazoo455591
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Marion4265112
Coahoma4227109
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Calhoun284449
Holmes271289
Smith268952
Yalobusha243747
Tallahatchie231453
Greene224749
Walthall221366
Lawrence217840
Perry213356
Amite209557
Webster205148
Noxubee188642
Montgomery181557
Carroll174441
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
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Humphreys131139
Franklin124929
Quitman107528
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96834
Sharkey65121
Issaquena1957
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 844594

Reported Deaths: 16115
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1160612006
Mobile741651379
Madison53255732
Shelby38313368
Baldwin38061589
Tuscaloosa35996641
Montgomery34473781
Lee25541263
Calhoun22582518
Morgan22441406
Etowah20009517
Marshall18771316
Houston17723425
St. Clair16863358
Limestone16123218
Cullman16032303
Elmore15902294
Lauderdale14945306
Talladega14186299
DeKalb12957269
Walker12011380
Blount10700192
Autauga10512157
Jackson10151194
Coffee9412192
Colbert9325208
Dale9013191
Tallapoosa7248201
Russell707465
Chilton7015170
Escambia6951143
Covington6926195
Franklin6337108
Chambers5778142
Marion5400130
Dallas5283209
Pike5114109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4777110
Geneva4640136
Bibb434094
Barbour369180
Butler3433100
Marengo342393
Monroe336666
Randolph334067
Pickens333188
Fayette329885
Henry320566
Hale317989
Cherokee316963
Crenshaw260477
Washington256952
Cleburne254360
Lamar251253
Clay250869
Macon244764
Conecuh192762
Coosa184647
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152545
Perry141840
Sumter139041
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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