Alabama mall gunman still at large after police say armed man killed by officer ‘likely did not fire’ shots

A Thanksgiving night shooting at a mall in Alabama left two people injured and a gunman dead, authorities said Thursday.

HOOVER, Al. — An armed 21-year-old man killed by an officer at a mall in Alabama on Thanksgiving night “likely did not fire” the shots that wounded two people and sent terrified shoppers running for cover, police said Friday.

Authorities initially thought Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., known as E.J., had fired the rounds at the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover that left an 18-year-old and a 12-year-old hospitalized, Hoover police spokesman Capt. Gregg Rector said in a statement.

At first, police said Bradford opened fire after an altercation with the 18-year-old and an officer fatally shot him as he fled the scene.

But late Friday, police changed that story, saying that while Bradford was involved in “some aspect of the altercation” and was armed with a handgun, he likely did not fire the rounds that injured the two others.

“We regret that our initial media release was not totally accurate, but new evidence indicates that it was not,” Rector said.

Police: Altercation involved more people

The new information emerged after Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office investigators and crime scene experts spoke to witnesses and examined evidence, police said.

“Investigators now believe that more than two individuals were involved in the initial altercation,” Rector said. “This information indicates that there is at least one gunman still at large.”

Police provided no name or description of the gunman at large.

The officer involved in the shooting is on administrative leave pending an investigation, police said.

Bradford’s family said his death left them shocked and devastated.

“EJ was a devoted son and brother, who dedicated his life to serving his country and always doing the right thing. 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.”

Members of the Bradford family have retained civil rights attorney Benjamin L. Crump, according to a release from the law firm.

The Jefferson County district attorney informed Hoover police Friday that the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency will take over the lead role in the shooting investigation from the county sheriff’s office, Rector said.

Hoover police will assist and cooperate in that inquiry, and will conduct its won internal investigation.

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.

The initial report, Fuentes said, reflects the “pressure on police and authorities when there’s an officer-involved shooting to get out as much information as quickly as they can, even if it involves some kind of speculation or they’re jumping to a conclusion.”

Protesters demand justice outside mall

Several dozen demonstrators gathered Saturday outside the mall to demand justice, footage from CNN affiliate WVTM showed.

Holding signs reading, “Justice for E.J.” and “Black Lives Matter,” they compared Bradford’s case to those of other African-Americans shot dead by police in high-profile incidents, including Walter Scott, who was killed in North Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.

“No justice, no peace,” they shouted as they walked slowly around the shopping center before entering it. “No racist police.”

One demonstrator drew attention to officers along the protest’s perimeter, blaming them for the fatal shooting of Bradford, then called for the arrest of the officer who shot the 21-year-old.

More than one speaker referred to Bradford’s military service. But while Bradford noted on his Facebook page that he was a US Army combat engineer, he never completed advanced individual training and did not serve, said Lt. Col. Manny Ortiz, an Army spokesman.

‘Freaking out,’ then escaping

The shooting at Alabama’s largest enclosed mall happened shortly before 10 p.m. (11 p.m. ET) Thursday.

Police do not know how the confrontation began but don’t believe the 18-year-old who was hurt was armed, they said. A gunman opened fire, shooting the teenager twice in the torso, according to police.

A Hoover police officer who was working security at the mall confronted an armed man running away from the scene and fatally shot him, authorities said.

A 12-year-old girl described by police as a bystander was shot once, but it’s unclear by whom, Rector said. Both of the injured were taken to hospitals.

Witnesses described chaotic scenes when gunshots rang out, with customers screaming and staff working to help people flee 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.”

5 comments

  • Lisa Marshinski

    Maybe people from this part of the country can go way down to that part of the country and look for this guy!! Otherwise, there is no reason for WNEP to keep bringing up this article except to give the next crazy out there reason to want to get the fame and glory they so seek. Stop!!! This was an isolated incident. OOooo, but there was a GUN involved. So tell me, how many car FATALITIES happened from drunk drivers over this weekend. Or better yet, how many lives were SAVED by the law abiding citizen with a conceal carry permit. Let it go!!

  • Interested American

    The “news” this station includes is beginning to increasingly be irrelevant to people who actually reside in your coverage area. WNEP 16 gives the appearance of hard hitting news but I have yet to see any investigative journalism of note in all the years i have watched. Dave Bowman is advertised as a hard hitting investigative reporter but I have yet to read or watch anything close to as substantial as actually happens in this area. Scranton is in the brink of insolvency. The Scranton School District is rife with corruption that is slowly being rooted out, Wilkes-Barre violence is ever increasing, and all you do is report on press releases and news conferences. Where are your hard hitting investigative journalists for these stories? Why is no reporter looking into causes, speaking to experts, holding elected officials to account, or otherwise attempting to help solve such problems?

    It appears to me, for the most part, you are a news station that cares nothing about what really effects your viewers. Any corruption reporting is done exclusively after the fact via news conferences about what took place, WNEP 16 risks anything by actually looking into matters themselves by rooting out and exposing corruption that everyone suspects is prevalent.

    I know your station has a good research team. When something happens in the world, and any connection at all can be found to connect it in any way to the area, you send a reporter to ask random people, “what do you think about what happened?” What useless garbage that is disguised as news.

  • Interested American

    Why is this news being told a thousand miles away from where it happened? Was it just because it happened at a Mall, or that a gun was involved? Shootings like this happen seemingly every day in Wilkes-Barre. Is this story something you are required to spread due to corporate policy? We are desensitized to this. Don’t post such stories unless 15 or more people have been shot.

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