21-Year-Old Killed in Alabama Mall Shot 3 Times in Back by Police: Autopsy

Emantic “EJ” Bradford Jr. smiles next to his mom.
Emantic “EJ” Bradford Jr. smiles next to his mom. (GoFundMe)

Emantic “EJ” Bradford Jr., a 21-year-old killed while shopping on Thanksgiving, was shot three times in the back by police officers as he ran away, according to a private autopsy.

His family had commissioned the autopsy after the Alabama man was fatally shot in the back by Hoover police responding to gunfire at the Riverchase Galleria mall.

The autopsy report, conducted by forensic pathologist Dr. Roger A. Mitchell Jr., read, “The cause of death is gunshot wound of the head. The manner of death is homicide.”

“He was murdered,” Bradford’s parents said in an interview with The Guardian.

Bradford had gone to the mall after Thanksgiving dinner with his family. Shots were fired, and an on-duty Hoover Police Department officer working private security detail responded immediately, the Bradfords' lawyer Ben Crump said in a statement.

Bradford was originally mistaken as the mall shooter and was allegedly “brandishing a gun” when an officer spotted him, according to the Hoover Police Department. He was shot fatally while fleeing, and an 18-year-old man and 12-year-old boy were also wounded in the shooting.

However, police later admitted they were mistaken about the gunman and U.S. Marshalls arrested Erron Martez Dequan Brown, 20, of Bessemer, a week after the shooting. Brown was arrested in Fairburn, Georgia, and will be brought back to Alabama and booked into the Jefferson County Jail on a $150,000 bond. He has not yet entered a plea.

Police later said that the shooting began as an altercation between Brown and someone he knew, 18-year-old Brian Wilson. Wilson was injured and Brown was charged with the attempted murder of the 18-year-old injured in the shooting.

It is unclear how the third victim, 12-year-old Molly Davis, was injured by a gunshot wound to the back as a result of the incident, police said.

But the family believes Bradford’s skin color plays a role in his death, Crump said.

“EJ’s senseless death is the latest egregious example of a black man killed because he was perceived to be a threat due to the color of his skin,” Crump said in a statement. “This tragically unacceptable pattern will not end until all who bear a measure of responsibility are held accountable.”

The family sought a private autopsy after Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis announced Monday that body camera footage and mall surveillance video surrounding the shooting will not be released, saying it will compromise the investigation. Derzis said the information is not being released at the request of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA). 

Police said in a press conference: "To ensure the integrity of the ongoing investigation, we’re continuing to respect ALEA’s request to not release further information."

“We are trying very hard to take them at their word. But it’s very difficult for this father and this family after they were lied to before. And so with all the expressions of condolences and sympathy it is still very difficult,” Crump said in a statement.

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