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Alabama police say black man’s gun ‘heightened’ threat

HOOVER, Ala. (AP) – Police in Alabama offered sympathy Monday to the family of a black man fatally shot by an officer responding to gunfire at a shopping mall, but said the man’s decision to pull out a weapon “heightened the sense of threat” to police in an already chaotic scene.

Hoover Police initially described its officer as “heroic” for bringing down Emantic “EJ” Bradford Jr. after two people were wounded at the Riverchase Galleria mall outside Birmingham Thanksgiving night. Then they retracted the statement, saying he was likely not the gunman responsible for the initial shooting, who remains at large.

Bradford’s father said his 21-year-old son had a permit to carry the handgun. The family’s lawyer said witnesses told them Bradford was trying to help by waving people to safety, and was shot “within milliseconds” by an officer who didn’t say a word to him.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a good guy with a gun, if you’re black the police shoot and kill you and ask questions later,” attorney Ben Crump said Monday on CNN, one of several national media appearances with Bradford’s parents.

Police and the city of Hoover issued a more detailed statement Monday on the status of the investigation, the possible eventual release of body camera footage and the officer’s decision to shoot.

“We can say with certainty Mr. Bradford brandished a gun during the seconds following the gunshots, which instantly heightened the sense of threat to approaching police officers responding to the chaotic scene,” the statement says.

“We extend sympathy to the family of Emantic J. Bradford of Hueytown, who was shot and killed during Hoover Police efforts to secure the scene in the seconds following the original altercation and shooting. The loss of human life is a tragedy under any circumstances,” it says.

Bradford’s parents said Monday that police still haven’t spoken with them. They want to see body-camera video, and Crump is exploring the family’s options.

“We don’t trust the police department because they’ve already lied to them. They released his picture all over the world saying he was the shooter and the police officer was a hero,” Crump said.

The Monday police statement says “body camera video and other available video was immediately turned over to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department as part of the investigation. Now, all evidence has been handed over to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) to lead the investigation. Release of any video will be done as ALEA deems appropriate during the investigation.”

The city and police said they would offer weekly updates. Organizers of a weekend protest inside the mall said they would keep up the pressure.

Bradford’s father, a former longtime employee of the Birmingham Police Department, and other family members expressed frustration and anger that the young man was initially presumed to be the gunman in the mall melee.

“I knew my son didn’t do that. People rushed to judgment. They shouldn’t have done that,” Emantic Bradford, Sr.

The police also expressed sympathy for the family of the 18-year-old man and the 12-year-old girl who were wounded in the initial shooting and said they are “pursuing the initial shooter who still remains at large.”