HOOVER, Ala. – It’s appears to be an Alabama nightmare for all involved. A man killed by a police officer after a Thanksgiving night shooting at an Alabama mall, was “likely” not the gunman who shot a teenager earlier that evening, police clarified Friday.
The incident unfolded at the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover, Alabama, about 10 miles from Birmingham. As shoppers flocked to the mall to shop for Black Friday deals, an 18-year-old male was shot twice and a 12-year-old female bystander was shot in the back.
An officer responding to the scene then shot and killed 21-year-old Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr. of Hueytown, reported Fox News. Police said he was fleeing the scene and brandishing a weapon. Law enforcement authorities initially said they thought Bradford had shot the teen after a physical altercation. Nevertheless, they retracted that statement Friday night.
“Over the past 20 hours, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office investigators and crime scene technicians have interviewed numerous individuals and examined several critical evidentiary items,’’ Hoover Police Captain Gregg Rector said in a statement. “New evidence now suggests that while Mr. Bradford may have been involved in some aspect of the altercation, he likely did not fire the rounds that injured the 18-year-old victim.”
Police said they “regret that our initial media release was not totally accurate.”
Rector said investigators now believe that more than two people were involved in the initial fight before the shooting. The information also indicated “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.”
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Jefferson County District Attorney Mike Anderton said the State Bureau of Investigation would be leading the probe after discovering an eyewitness is related to Jefferson County Sheriff-Elect Mark Mettway, AL.com reported.
Bradford, known to friends as E.J., was a graduate of Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic High School in Birmingham and had enlisted in the U.S. Army, according to Carl Dean, a former teacher at the school.
Dean said he was unsure whether Bradford was still active with the Army, but he had a hard time believing Bradford would have shot someone in the mall.
“He was a super sweet, funny, kind and goodhearted young man who never had a bad word to say to anyone” Dean said. “When I saw this morning that he was allegedly involved in causing the tragedy at the mall last night, I was shocked and in disbelief as well as heartbroken that this young man is no longer with us.”
Whether Bradford was involved in the initial shooting or not, “my heart breaks for his family and for all those from Holy Family who knew and loved him,” Dean said.
While police acknowledged the error, they did not disclose specific details that led to the shooting of Bradford Jr.
Police are asking anyone with information regarding the shooting to contact investigators.
The officer who shot the gunman was placed on administrative leave while the authorities investigate the shooting. The officer’s name was not released. The officers involved were uninjured.
The 12-year-old girl was said to be in stable condition. The 18-year-old male was said to be in serious condition as of Friday night, the Hoover Sun reported.