AG Steve Marshall Explains Why He Cleared Hoover Officer in Fatal Shooting

 1525980526 
1549414957
Gigi Douban, WBHM

A few days after a police officer fatally shot Emantic "EJ" Bradford Jr., Bradford's family and their attorney, Ben Crump (third from left) held a news conference demanding the release of video footage. More than two months later, Attorney General Steve Marshall released a detailed investigation report, but very little video.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office spent more than two months investigating the shooting death of Emantic “EJ” Bradford Jr. at the hands of a Hoover police officer. The shooting happened on Thanksgiving night at the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover. On Tuesday, Marshall issued a report that said the unnamed police officer was justified in killing Bradford. Marshall’s office will not prosecute the officer.

There were several police officers at the mall that night to monitor shoppers ahead of Black Friday. The two who responded were 75 feet away when they heard gunshots. Initially, Hoover officials said they had shot and killed the gunman, who they said was fleeing the scene with a gun. The next day, they said they were wrong, and that Bradford likely wasn’t the shooter.

Marshall’s report concludes the officer made a split-second decision and shot Bradford after the officer saw him running with a gun toward the area where two shots were fired and two people were wounded. “And that is the perspective that the officer had when he saw Mr. Bradford turn aggressive stance, head to the direction of people that were unarmed, and the officer made the decision that taking action with his firearm was going to ensure the safety of the people there,” Marshall said in an interview with WBHM.

Marshall says Bradford walked a few steps away from where the initial shooting took place, then headed toward Brian Wilson, who was wounded in the shooting, and another bystander. The report outlines Bradford’s rapid movements in those seconds leading up to the shooting. The events unfolded near a JC Penny and FootAction store. Erron Brown, 20, was arrested and charged in the shooting in December.

“Erron Brown shoots Brian Wilson, then along with his companions, runs into JC Penney. E.J. Bradford initially runs in the opposite direction (away from JC Penney), creating a gap between himself and the gunshots. As he creates this gap, Bradford draws his weapon and chambers a round. Bradford then charges back toward JC Penney, gun drawn. Officer 1 shoots Bradford as Bradford is running toward Brian Wilson (the gunshot victim), AC (who is assisting Wilson), Erron Brown (the initial shooter), and several innocent bystanders.”

Marshall says the officer acted in a way as to ensure the safety of those bystanders and the police themselves. An autopsy determined Bradford had been shot three times from behind.

Since the shooting, there have been waves of protests, in part because of the length of the investigation. Much of the unrest has been around the issue of race, specifically the question of whether Bradford was shot because he was black. Until Tuesday, very few details about the shooting had been disclosed. Marshall says that’s because there were dozens of witness accounts and a large amount of forensic evidence state investigators had to examine. “We were making sure that we were able to quickly turn around what I think has been a very transparent reflection of the facts and the law in what we examined as well as why we made our decision,” Marshall said.

Marshall’s office has released only a few seconds’-worth of video footage from the shooting. He says the decision to release such a brief excerpt came after consulting with the Alabama State Bar Association, which cautioned against releasing more. Withholding video, Marshall says, would comply with ethical obligations around the pending charge of attempted murder against Erron Brown, whose case is set to go to a grand jury. Since November, Bradford’s family, protesters, and community activists have pressured state and local officials to release of all video surveillance tied to the shooting. But Marshall rejects claims the state hasn’t been forthcoming with details around its investigation. “We have been very transparent not only with the family but also with the people of Hoover and Jefferson County and the state of Alabama as to what was discovered, why it was relevant, and the decision that was made,” Marshall said.

One gaping question that remains is the identity of the police officer. Marshall says there’s no reason to reveal his identity. “If any other individual were investigated by law enforcement and there was no determination a crime was committed, that information wouldn’t be public,” Marshall said. “There’s no reason for an officer to be treated any differently.” Marshall said there’s no value to the public in knowing his identity.

In the meantime, a host of questions swirl, including the officer’s record, his training, and any disciplinary measures that might’ve been a factor recently or in his past. The ACLU issued a statement on Tuesday denouncing Marshall’s decision not to prosecute the officer. “The Attorney General’s characterization of E.J. Bradford as a ‘threat’ that needed ‘eliminating’ reveals how little regard the Attorney General has for the life of this Black man,” Dillon Nettles, ACLU of Alabama policy analyst said. “Regardless of what the Attorney General of Alabama said in his report, E.J. Bradford’s life mattered. Black lives matter. We won’t stay quiet while law enforcement continues to inflict lethal violence against Black people and attempt to justify it”

Protesters plan to demonstrate in front of Marshall’s office in Montgomery Wednesday.

More Crime Coverage

Hack Exposes Vulnerability Of America’s Energy Supply Lines

Colonial Pipeline’s shutdown of its 5,500-mile pipeline Friday after a ransomware attack. But this is not the first time the public’s attention has been turned to the things that can go wrong with the energy supply.

Legislative Wrap-Up: Medical Marijuana And Yoga Bills Pass, Gambling Bill Stalls

A medical marijuana bill goes to the governor. Meanwhile a gambling bill looks unlikely to pass this session.

Alabama Legislature Drops Resistance, OKs Medical Marijuana

The bill faced strong resistance among House lawmakers.

WBHM Wins Four Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards

Public Radio WBHM 90.3 FM has won four regional Edward R. Murrow awards, including the award for Overall Excellence. WBHM also won awards in these categories: Continuing Coverage – The pandemic rages through Alabama, WBHM News Team Excellence in Sound – “Through The Intercom, Nursing Home Employee Sings To Residents” by Mary Scott Hodgin Hard […]

New Orleans’ Return To Cultural Parades Is A Step Toward Healing In The South

In April, Mardi Gras Indians held a funeral and parade for one of their own – one of a few large cultural events to occur since the pandemic started and most large events in the region were canceled.

Fentanyl Overdose Deaths Increase 100% In Jefferson County

The powerful synthetic opioid is now being mixed with drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine, leading to more overdose deaths.

More Crime Coverage