Family of Black Man Fatally Shot by Officer at Alabama Mall Files Lawsuit Against City
|thenorthstar||Dec 3, 2019|
The family of a Black man who was shot and killed by a police officer in Alabama last year has filed a lawsuit for wrongful death.
April Pipkins, the mother of Emantic "EJ" Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of Alabama against a Hoover Police Department officer - whose name has not been released - and the city of Hoover. The suit alleges the officer did not use verbal commands before he discharged his weapon and killed Bradford.
Quick Facts about the Shooting and the Lawsuit
Bradford, 21, was shopping at the Riverchase Galleria mall in Hoover, Alabama, on November 22, 2018, when Erron Brown shot Brian Wilson, 18, at the mall. Upon hearing the gunshots, Bradford and other mall patrons ran for safety, the lawsuit states.
After seeing Wilson had been shot, Bradford, a member of the U.S. Army, stopped and “drew his lawfully possessed firearm and did what brave first responders and Good Samaritans do – he moved toward the location of the shooting to try to protect people and to assist the victim Wilson,” the lawsuit read. It is legal in Alabama to carry a concealed handgun with a state pistol permit, which Bradford had
Two Hoover police officers who were working as mall security at the time were responding to the shooting when they spotted Bradford. The lawsuit states that “upon observing Bradford, a young black male with a handgun moving toward Wilson and a second person who was helping Wilson,” the officer fired his gun “with the specific intent of killing him.”
The suit also claims that the officer did not issue any verbal commands before firing his gun at Bradford, a violation of standard police procedures and training. In February, months after the shooting, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall released a report following an investigation stating it was “unclear” if the officer gave verbal commands. The unnamed officer and two witnesses claimed they heard the officer issue verbal commands, according to the report.
The officer and mall security did not offer any emergency medical care to help save Bradford, according to the lawsuit. A medical examiner stated that Bradford had been shot three times: in the head, in the neck and in the back. The 21-year-old died from a brain injury from one of the bullets.
The lawsuit states that the officer’s “primary duty was to eliminate any threat to innocent civilians and first responders, not to kill them” and the officer “essentially just flipped a coin and recklessly shot bullets at Bradford while hoping that his coin toss had selected the correct answer.”
Owning a Gun While Black Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing Bradford’s family, told The North Star that the family is still “devastated by the loss of their son.” Crump said Bradford’s father, Emantic Bradford Sr., who was suffering from cancer at the time of Bradford’s death, would always check in on his dad.
“EJ would come and check in on his father and he was his hope and hero. He was a good kid,” Crump said.
When asked why organizations like the National Rifle Association (NRA) have yet to comment on Bradford’s death, Crump said the NRA has stayed quiet about other Black gun owners who were lawfully carrying their gun and have been shot and killed by police.
“Unfortunately, we’ve seen this happen in the past with the NRA where a Black citizen who is lawfully registered as a gun owner and is shot by police who think that Black people don’t have Second Amendment rights,” Crump told TNS. “It is shocking the NRA would not say anything.” Crump brought up the cases of lawful, Black gun owners including Philando Castile and Corey Jones, where the NRA has remained silent. In July 2016, Castile, 32, was pulled over while driving in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, and was shot and killed by St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez. Yanez was acquitted of the murder a year later, HuffPost previously reported.
Jones, 31, was shot and killed by former Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja in October 2015 while he was waiting by his broken-down vehicle in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, CNN reported. Raja was convicted of manslaughter while armed with a firearm and attempted first-degree murder in March.
Both Castile and Jones were legal gun owners and had permits, as it is legal in both Minnesota and Florida to carry a concealed weapon or firearm. When Castile was pulled over by Yanez, Castile told the officer he had a firearm in the car, but was shot anyway because the officer said he was scared, USA Today previously reported. Former police officer Raja, who fatally shot Jones, never told Jones that he was an officer, which led to Jones raising his weapon,The Sun-Sentinel reported.
NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch spoke out a year after Castile’s death, writing on Twitter that Castile was not carrying his handgun legally during the time of the shooting because he was also in possession of marijuana.
“He was also in possession of a controlled substance and a firearm simultaneously, which is illegal. Stop lying,” Loesch wrote.
he NRA did not return TNS’s request for comment. Crump said despite the fact that Castile and Jones did not draw their weapons and were lawful gun owners, they were still shot and killed by police.
“The NRA, who is supposed to be this great organization for Second Amendment rights for all American citizens. I guess this only applies to white American citizens, not if you’re a citizen of color,” Crump said.
Where Do Things Stand Now?
The February report from the Alabama Attorney General’s office stated the officer’s actions were “justified and not criminal” and that the case would not go to a grand jury. In a statement on November 22, Hoover City attorney Phillip Corley stated that the city will continue to stand by its officers, calling the allegations against them false.
“After all evidence is presented, no wrongdoing by the city or any of our officers will be shown,” read the statement from the attorney.
A few weeks after the city released its report on the shooting, the ACLU of Alabama and the NAACP of Alabama filed a public records request for video footage of Bradford’s death. The two groups have also asked for body camera and security footage for the shooting of Wilson, but the city’s attorney stated in the latest statement that the records have yet to be produced because it is still under criminal investigation.
Pipkins is suing for wrongful death, excessive force and unlawful seizure, according to the lawsuit. During a press conference about the suit on Friday, the one-year anniversary of the shooting, Pipkins demanded change.
“It’s time for change,’’ Pipkins said at the press conference, according to AL.com. “It is my God-given duty to stand up and fight for what’s right. We will not back down. We will not take one step back.”
About the Author
Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.