No charges for officer who fatally shot man he mistook for Alabama mall gunman

/ CBS/AP

Man at Alabama mall shot from behind

Montgomery, Ala. — A police officer will not face charges for killing a man he mistook for the gunman in an Alabama mall shooting. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall announced Tuesday that he concluded the officer did not break the law and will not be charged in the death.

An officer shot 21-year-old Emantic "EJ" Bradford, Jr. while responding to a shooting on Thanksgiving night at a mall in Hoover, Alabama. Bradford's death sparked weeks of protests. Marshall's office released two short surveillance videos Tuesday, which activists and Bradford's family have repeatedly called for since the shooting, along with other documents from the investigation.

Tuesday, Bradford's family called the attorney general's investigation a "cover-up"and called Bradford the victim in the case, describing him as a hero who pulled his gun because he was trying to protect others.

Surveillance Video of Shooting at Riverchase Galleria (Nov. 22, 2018) by Attorney General Steve Marshall on YouTube

"Bottom line, [Marshall] covered it up," said Bradford's father, Emantic Bradford Sr. "He sanitized it so this officer can get off with murdering my son."

Marshall's report says the Hoover Police officer mistakenly believed Bradford had fired the earlier shots but was justified in shooting him anyway. The report said the officer saw Bradford with a gun running toward a shooting victim — who was wounded on the ground in front of him from the earlier gunfire — and another person who was trying to help the victim.

A still of surveillance video shows EJ Bradford, Jr. holding a gun before he was fatally shot by a responding police officer who mistook him for the gunman. Alabama Attorney General's Office

The report says Bradford was about 10 feet away from the shooting victim and the bystander and the officer thought Bradford was going to murder them. It said Bradford was "holding his gun in a manner that allowed Bradford to shoot" either the victim and the bystander, the officer who opened fire or a second officer who was on the scene.

Marshall found that the officer's mistaken belief that Bradford was the shooter was not unreasonable because a "reasonable person could have assumed that the only person with a gun who was running toward the victim of a shooting that occurred just three seconds earlier fired the shots."

He wrote in his report that two other witnesses and the second officer stated that they initially believed Bradford was the shooter. Marshall also said that the officer's duty was to eliminate the threat, and "while it is now known that EJ Bradford did not shoot [the gunshot victim,] Bradford still posed an immediate deadly threat to persons in the area."

The report says the officer was "unable to provide verbal commands to EJ Bradford before firing his weapon due to the quickness of the event and the immediate threat Bradford posed" to the shooting victim and the bystander.

But Bradford family attorney Benjamin Crump said the officer "shot first and asked questions later."

Crump, a high-profile national civil rights attorney, says the video shows Bradford posed no threat. It shows him running away from the officer when he was fatally shot, and doesn't show him turning around or pointing the gun at officers.

bradford20.jpg
This still of surveillance video released by the Alabama Attorney General's office shows the location of EJ Bradford, Jr., in relation to gunshot victim Brian Wilson and the man who has now been charged in the shooting, Erron Brown. Alabama Attorney General's Office

Crump had previously released an independent autopsy that found Bradford was shot three times, all from behind — once in the back of the head, once in the back of the neck and once in the lower right back, near his hip. The Jefferson County Coroner's report had the same findings, according to information released in Marshall's report.

"E.J. Bradford did nothing wrong on that video," family attorney Benjamin Crump told reporters Tuesday. "Look at that video for yourself — he was not part of the initial confrontation, he runs away and gets his gun as he goes back to protect his friend, as he had every right to do."

Crump called on Marshall to release the name of the officer who opened fire — which was not included in the report — and the officer's bodycam, which he said starts after the shooting and shows the officer "fist-pumping" over Bradford's body. Marshall's office accepted emailed questions from CBS News Tuesday, including over whether the office would release the bodycam and the officer's names, but couldn't immediately respond to them.

In his report, Marshall says the officer had his bodycam on "stand-by" mode and didn't have time to activate it before the shooting.

1124-en-alshooting-craig-grab.jpg
Emantic "EJ" Bradford Jr.'s Facebook profile picture.

Crump denounced Marshall's decision to investigate the case in place of the local district attorney, Danny Carr, who made history when he was elected in November as Jefferson County's first black DA.

In letters between Carr and Marshall released Tuesday, Carr acknowledged that he knew some of the protesters and that the officer involved is the charging officer or a witness in about 20 cases pending before his office.

However, Carr said he didn't intend the December letter as a recusal and said he was"confident in my ability to act without bias." In a letter written in response, Marshall ruled Carr should recuse himself from the case because Carr had admitted an objective observer might believe a conflict exists.

"It was a cover-up in the first degree," Crump said. "This attorney general orchestrated taking this case from the first elected black district attorney so he could cover up for this white police officer shooting a black man in the back running away."

Bradford's family also blasted Marshall for not meeting with them in the wake of their son's death.

"He didn't have the nerve or the decency to come up here and meet me face to face, as a man," Bradford Sr. said. "You are a coward."

Another man, Erron Brown, 20, is charged with attempted murder of the person wounded in the gunfire that preceded the killing.

First published on February 5, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

bradford13.jpg bradford20.jpg 1124-en-alshooting-craig-grab.jpg

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