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Alabama Police Say Black Man's Gun 'Heightened' Threat During Mall Shooting

Initially calling the officer who brought down Emantic "EJ" Bradford Jr. “heroic,” police later retracted the statement after admitting he was likely not the gunman responsible for the Riverchase Galleria shooting, who remains at large.

By The Associated Press

Police in Alabama offered sympathy Monday to the family of a black man killed by an officer responding to a shooting at a shopping mall, but said the man's visible handgun "heightened the sense of threat" to police in an already chaotic scene.

Hoover Police initially described its officer as "heroic" for bringing down Emantic "EJ" Bradford Jr. after two people were wounded at the Riverchase Galleria mall outside Birmingham on Thanksgiving night. Then they retracted the statement, saying he was likely not the gunman responsible for the initial shooting, who remains at large.

The family's lawyer said witnesses told them Bradford was trying to help by waving people to safety, and was shot "within milliseconds" by an officer who didn't say a word to him.

"It doesn't matter if you're a good guy with a gun, if you're black the police shoot and kill you and ask questions later," attorney Ben Crump said Monday on CNN, one of several national media appearances with Bradford's parents.

Police and the city of Hoover on Monday issued more detailed statements on the shooting and the investigation. They said Bradford "had a gun in his hand as police officers responded to the active shooter situation between mall patrons."

"We can say with certainty Mr. Bradford brandished a gun during the seconds following the gunshots, which instantly heightened the sense of threat to approaching police officers responding to the chaotic scene," the statement said.

They later clarified the use of the verb "brandished" saying it meant Bradford was holding a gun.

"We are deeply and sincerely sympathetic to Mr. Bradford's grieving family and all of those affected by this incident. We all want answers and we believe that with patience and focus, the truth will be firmly established," the statement says.

Bradford's parents said they want to see body-camera video, and Crump is exploring the family's options.

"We don't trust the police department because they've already lied to them. They released his picture all over the world saying he was the shooter and the police officer was a hero," Crump said.

The Monday police statement says "body camera video and other available video was immediately turned over to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department as part of the investigation. Now, all evidence has been handed over to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) to lead the investigation. Release of any video will be done as ALEA deems appropriate during the investigation."

ALEA said Monday that the results of the investigation will be turned over to the district attorney's office.

The shooting sparked a weekend protest at the mall, with demonstrators chanting Bradford's name as they walked past Christmas shoppers to the spot where he was killed. The city and police on Monday promised transparency and said they would begin offering weekly updates to the news mediea and public.

Bradford's father, a former longtime employee of the Birmingham Police Department, said his son had a permit to carry a concealed handgun. The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, which issues concealed carry permits, referred questions to ALEA on whether Bradford had a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

The code of conduct posted on the Riverchase Galleria's website says firearms and illegal weapons are prohibited.

Family members expressed frustration and anger that the young man was initially presumed to be the shooter in the incident.

"I knew my son didn't do that. People rushed to judgment. They shouldn't have done that," Emantic Bradford, Sr. told The Associated Press.

The police also expressed sympathy for the family of the 18-year-old man and the 12-year-old girl who were wounded in the initial shooting and said they are "pursuing the initial shooter who still remains at large."

[Photo Credit: Emantic Bradford Sr. via AP]

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