UPDATE 2-6-19 6:50 a.m.: The City of Hoover, including Mayor Frank Brocato, City Administrator Allan Rice and City Attorney Phillip Corley will discuss the ruling at 10 a.m. new conference.
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has concluded that a Hoover police officer was justified and did not commit a crime in shooting and killing E.J. Bradford, 21, at the Riverchase Galleria mall on November 22, 2018. Marshall released a 24-page report detailing an investigation and review more than 10 weeks after the fatal shooting, which happened Thanksgiving night and sparked weeks of protests in Hoover.
The day after the shooting, the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) assumed the investigation, which lasted seven weeks and involved interviewing four Hoover police officers and 47 witnesses to the shooting. Investigators also reviewed all of the Hoover Police reports and photographs surrounding the incident, and surveillance video from inside the mall.
The report lays out what investigators believe happened during the chaotic moments inside the mall that left two people injured and one dead. At approximately 9:51 p.m., Erron Brown shot Brian Wilson twice. Seconds later, in response to the initial gunshots, the unnamed officer shot and killed Bradford when he saw him running with a gun in his hand.
Among the findings, a mere five seconds passed between the initial shots fired and the fatal shots that killed Bradford. It is unclear if the officer gave verbal commands to Bradford before he shot him. The report also revealed that Bradford chambered a bullet before he was fatally shot, but there is no evidence that he fired his weapon at the scene.
The officer’s name is redacted in the report, “out of consideration for his safety and the safety of his family,” according to a spokesperson for Marshall. The officer who fired the fatal shots is referred to as “Officer 1” throughout the report.
“After an investigation and review, the AG has determined that Officer 1 did not commit a crime under Alabama law and thus the Alabama rules of Professional Conduct preclude presentation to a grand jury,” the report states.
Officer 1 and his partner, Officer 2, were on duty in the Galleria when they heard gunshots approximately 75 feet away. Both immediately moved toward the gunshots and within seconds they encountered E.J. Bradford, "who held a firearm in a ready position, then charged forward. The report states that several people were in Bradford’s path. Immediately before him, Brian Wilson lay on the ground, “bleeding from his gunshot wounds.” Beyond them, Brown, the suspect initial shooter and his companions were running for JC Penney, while innocent bystanders scrambled for cover.
“Officer 1 identified E.J. Bradford as an immediate deadly threat to innocent civilians and thus shot Bradford to eliminate the threat,” the report states. Investigators found Officer 1′s actions"reasonable" and “consistent” with his training and “nationally-accepted standards for active shooter scenarios.”
Officer 1 gave a statement within a few minutes of the shooting, and a more detailed written statement on November 29.
“At approximately 2100-2130, I was located on the second floor in front of Spencer’s. My partner and I were observing the crowd for any violations of the law and/or disruptions to the orderly conduct of shopping. I heard two gunshots and a female’s scream behind me. I turned toward the noise, drawing my firearm. I was in reasonable fear for the lives of the shoppers, my partner, and myself. I instinctively started moving towards the area where the gunshots were heard while looking for immediate threats. I then observed a crowd of shoppers near FootAction running away from where I heard gunshots.
I observed two males who were not running away, but, instead, were standing near the railing in front of FootAction. One male appeared to be injured, clutching his stomach, while the other male appeared to be helping him. Next, I observed an armed suspect quickly moving towards the two males standing near the railing. The suspect was advancing on the two males and had a black handgun in his right hand. I fired my duty weapon at the armed suspect to stop him. The suspect fell near the other two males[,] and I observed the suspect’s firearm slide across the floor.
“I ordered the two males by the railing to lay down to determine whether they were a threat to safety. I asked the uninjured male if he was armed, whether he was injured and if the suspect was the only shooter. I understood an affirmative response to my last question. No additional weapons were found, and ultimately, I did not observe any further threats to the safety of others.”
Officer 1 also answered questions by investigators that revealed he believed Bradford was going to murder Brian Wilson and AC. Officer 1 estimated that Bradford was only 10 feet away from Wilson and AC as he was running toward them with a firearm.
VIDEO: Click here to see the surveillance footage in question. (WARNING this link contains graphic content.)
Officer 1 believed Bradford was holding his gun in a manner that allowed Bradford to shoot. The officer said he was unable to provide verbal commands before firing his weapon “due to the quickness of the event and the immediate threat Bradford posed.” The mall surveillance video of the incident does not provide sound. Two witnesses told investigators they heard someone give commands, so investigators concluded it is unclear whether Officer 1 gave verbal commands before he shot Bradford.
“Regardless of which recollection is correct, the reasonableness of Officer 1′s assessment does not change,” the report states. “That E.J. Bradford sprinted out of a bladed shooting stance, with weapon in hand, toward innocent unarmed persons reasonably allowed Officer 1 to deem Bradford an actor/suspect that posed an immediate threat that required immediate action.”
Officer 1 also told investigators he was wearing a body camera that was in standby mode, and he did not activate the camera before he engaged and shot Bradford because there was no time “due to the quickness and urgency of the event.” No other officer body camera video depicted the actual shooting of Bradford.
The autopsy determined that Bradford was shot three times - (1) head, back right; (2) neck, middle; and (3) back, just above the right buttock. Bradford died from an injury to the brain caused by the bullet that struck him in the back of the head.
Officer 1 completed ALERRT training (active shooter response) in March of 2016. The report cites evidence that demonstrates he followed that training on the night of November 22, 2018. He determined Bradford was a potential actor/suspect & not innocent civilian or responder by noticing a few key things: Bradford was not wearing law enforcement clothing or ID, Bradford’s “readied stance, with weapon in hand, made him a potential combatant,” and Bradford’s demeanor, “sprinting toward the initial shooting site and victim, while everyone else ran away, made him an immediate threat.”
The Attorney General concluded that Officer 1′s actions were reasonable and not criminal and states in the report that the FBI has found no evidence to initiate a case for civil rights violations.
Bradford’s family has said that he was licensed to carry the firearm and was a “good guy” with a gun. They believe he was running toward the danger as a Good Samaritan and was wrongly killed by the officer who misjudged Bradford in a fatal moment.
“The fact that Officer 1 mistakenly believed Bradford fired the initial two shots that injured Brian Wilson does not render his actions unreasonable,” the report states. “Officer 1′s primary duty was to eliminate any threat to innocent civilians and first responders. While it is now known that Bradford did not shoot Wilson, Bradford still posed an immediate deadly threat to innocent civilians and first responders inside the Galleria.”