HOOVER, AL – An 8-year-old boy was shot and killed and three others were injured in a shooting at a mall in Hoover, Alabama on Friday.
Police said they responded to a scene at the Riverchase Galleria, which is next to the food court after multiple 911 calls reporting “shots fired.”
Among the three others injured in the shooting, one was another juvenile, a girl, Hoover police said. The other two victims are adults. All of their conditions are currently unknown.
The 8-year-old boy was later identified as Royta Giles Jr. by the child’s family. He was preparing to enter the third grade in the fall at Jonesboro Elementary School. The Bessemer City Schools released a statement following the death of Royta:
“Our hearts are simply broken at the tragic loss of Royta. We are here for the family in every way possible and we ask that everyone lifts the mother, family, and our school community in your prayers. This is tough.”
RIP ROYTA 💔 This is Royta Giles Jr., the 8-year-old killed in the Riverchase Galleria shooting Friday afternoon. He was about to start the third grade at Jonesboro Elementary School.
— CBS 42 (@CBS_42) July 4, 2020
The school system described Royta as a:
“smart child, who was a jewel, with big dreams of someday entering the music industry.”
Former assistant principle Van James went on to say:
“He was bright, articulate, and very convincing. We even tried to convince him to become a lawyer.”
Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato visited with the boy’s family Friday evening:
“This was just a very senseless tragedy and of course they are devastated by this.”
Royta Giles jr. just finished the second grade and went to the mall with his family today and was shot and killed. This black life matters. Protect black children. THEY deserve to live. pic.twitter.com/OWQO8cZFzE
— Sara Peete📢 BLACK LIVES MATTER (@sarapeetey) July 4, 2020
As it stands, police have yet to give a motive for the shooting near the food court inside the mall. Police are working promising leads, but did not say if they have identified suspects. In a news release, Captain Gregg Rector said:
“We don’t know at this point what led to the shooting or how many gunmen were involved.”
A mall employee, Annalisa Pope, who works at Hollister told WBMA-TV in a telephone interview that she heard six to seven shots that sounded like they were coming from every direction:
“It wasn’t just one or two. That’s what got me off guard, the shots just kept going. It felt so close. It was so surreal. It doesn’t even feel real right now. You wouldn’t expect something like that to happen out of nowhere on a normal Friday afternoon.”
Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said:
“This is certainly a tragic situation where you have an innocent child who gets caught in the middle of an altercation between others.”
The investigation is still ongoing. Hoover PD is asking if anyone has information that could help in anyways to contact them at 205-822-5300 or CrimeStoppers at 205-254-7777.
The incident comes a year after a separate shooting at the same mall, which left one person dead. One suspect was arrested in connection to that case, police said.
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This mall was the site of a 2018 police shooting where an officer fatally shot a Black man with a gun after mistaking him for the gunman in an earlier shooting at the mall. The shooting of 21-year-old Emantic “EJ” Bradford Jr. prompted a series of protests at the mall. The Alabama attorney general’s office cleared the officer saying:
“He acted reasonably under the circumstances in the encounter that spanned approximately five seconds.”
Back in November 2019, almost a year after the shooting of EJ, his family filed a lawsuit against the unnamed police officer and the city of Hoover. The lawsuit alleged that the officer did not follow his training, violated department policy by not turning on his body-worn camera, failed to issue verbal commands before opening fire and did not verify whether Bradford posed a threat before killing him. They sued for wrongful death.
The city has repeatedly stood by the officer and issued a previous statement through city attorney Phillip Corley saying it would continue to defend him:
“The many allegations made against the city of Hoover in the days and weeks following the incident are false. After all the evidence is presented, no wrongdoing by the city or any of our officers will be shown.”
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