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Soldier Tried to Help Victims in Ala. Mall Shooting Before Police Killed Him, Family Seeks Charges

Antonia 03/08/2021

Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr. was fatally shot by the police on Thanksgiving 2018 at a mall in Alabama.

The day before Thanksgiving 2018, Emantic Bradford Sr. had his second round of chemotherapy. He recalls his son EJ, 21, making him a milkshake and kissing him on the forehead before saying goodbye.

He never saw EJ again.

April Pipkins holds a photograph of her deceased son, Emantic "EJ" Bradford Jr., during an interview in Birmingham, Ala.

He would eventually learn that his son, a member of the U.S. Army who had a gun permit, was attempting to help victims during a mall shooting when Hoover Police officer David Alexander shot and killed EJ instead of the actual shooter.

In February 2019, the Alabama Attorney General's Office ruled the officer's actions were justified.

"After an extensive investigation and review, the Attorney General has determined Officer 1 did not commit a crime under Alabama law when he shot and killed E.J. Bradford and thus the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct preclude presentation of this case to a grand jury," the attorney general's report states.

But EJ's parents do not agree. According to an autopsy report commissioned by the family, EJ was shot three times -- in the back, the back of his neck and the back of his head, The New York Times reported.

Funeral of Emantic “E.J.” 

"I want this to be perfectly clear: murder is murder," Emantic said. "You don't shoot anybody in the back moving away."

Alexander did not activate his body camera, but multiple bystanders at the mall shooting were recording and posting the chaos live to Facebook.

"I saw my son take his last breath," Emantic recalls. "They pushed away somebody trying to render our son medical attention. They didn't cover him up. They just left him there."

Last year, EJ's mother, April Pipkins, and civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Devon Jacob filed a lawsuit against the city of Hoover and Riverchase Galleria Mall, where the shooting occurred.

Crime scene at mall

Emantic wants accountability for what happened that day.

"We had to bury our son," he says. "Justice will be when [the officer] is locked up."

Pipkins says support from the community, and hope, continues to motivate her through her grief.

"I believe justice will come. I really believe it. I have to," Pipkins says. "With justice coming for our son, maybe other families won't have to suffer this pain that we're suffering."

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