Police responding to a shooting at a mall in Alabama apparently shot and killed the wrong person — a Black man — leaving the suspected gunman at large following a violent episode that wounded two others on Thanksgiving night.
Emantic “EJ” Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., “an active duty officer for the Army,” was reportedly shot in the face and died at the Riverchase Galleria in the town of Hoover as police identified him as their primary suspect. The 21-year-old, who was armed and licensed to carry a gun, was reportedly home for the holidays when he was killed.
Law enforcement was seemingly eager to announce how they were able to kill a suspect, even going so far as to announce it to the press before any apparent investigation had been launched. That proved to be one of a handful of mistakes the Hoover Police Department made Thursday, according to AL.com.
“We regret that our initial media release was not totally accurate, but new evidence indicates that it was not,’’ Hoover Police Captain Gregg Rector said. “We remain committed to maintaining the integrity of this investigation, helping determine the facts involved, and assisting ALEA in their efforts.”
According to AL.com, “Rector said investigators now believe that more than two individuals were involved in the initial altercation. The information indicates that there is at least one gunman still at-large, who could be responsible for the shooting of the 18-year-old male and 12-year-old female.”
The admission stopped well short of any type of apology for what on the surface appeared to be a case of police seeing a Black man with a gun in an open carry state and assuming the worst. Chances were more than likely that police will claim they feared for their lives, a common defense that killer cops routinely rely on to elude any sort of punishment or criminal charges.
The shooting happened ahead of Black Friday sales that drew shoppers to the mall. It bore some similarities to another in suburban Chicago earlier this month, when a Black security guard trying to subdue a gunman was shot to death by police. Jemel Roberson was wearing a shirt emblazoned with the word “SECURITY” and still got shot on Nov. 11. His funeral was scheduled for Saturday.