(HOOVER, Ala.) — Demonstrators shut down a major Alabama highway during rush hour Monday in protest of an officer-involved shooting that left an innocent black man dead.
Several dozen protesters blocked traffic on U.S. Highway 31 at Interstate 459 in Hoover, Alabama, demanding justice for 21-year-old Emantic “EJ” Bradford Jr., who was killed by police officers at a mall on Thanksgiving.
Hoover Police originally called an officer a hero for taking down Bradford, who was seen holding a gun in the wake of a chaotic shooting at Riverchase Galleria mall in Hoover, just south of Birmingham.
Police retracted the statement later, saying officers had erroneously targeted Bradford as the gunman who shot an 18-year-old and a 12-year-old bystander moments earlier. The actual suspect is still at large.
Protesters at Monday’s demonstration held signs that read “Black Lives Matter,” “Justice for EJ,” and “Justice starts with the truth,” as speakers passed around a bullhorn, demanding justice, transparency and accountability from city officials.
“Can you imagine your child being labeled as a gunman all across the world,” one protester said. “The police lied! We don’t know anything about the officer.”
“I find it amazing that you shot this young brother, EJ Bradford, in the face, but you are hiding yours,” another protester added.
Monday’s protest began shortly after Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato issued a statement that urged patience in response to the shooting.
“The loss of any fellow human being is deeply tragic, whatever the circumstances. We all want answers and we believe that with patience and focus, the truth will be firmly established,” Brocato said, noting that the investigation had been turned over to the state. We have to trust the justice process and we plead your patience in that. There’s honestly not a lot we can say at this point since the investigation is not in the city’s hands.”
Protesters, along with the victim’s family, have called for the release of police bodycam footage from the shooting. They’ve also demanded an apology from the police department.
“It hurts me to the core. My son is gone and I can’t get him back. But you vilified my son like he was a straight criminal on Facebook and National TV,” Bradford’s father, Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Sr., said at a news conference on Sunday, referring to police and city officials. “You need to clean up and apologize. I want an apology, his mother needs one, his grandmother definitely needs one.”
He said responding officers “rushed to judgement” and shot his son without warning.
“My son was a loving, very loving young man. He would give any of you the shirt off his back. And that’s true. He loved people, period. He was not a killer,” the victim’s mother, April Pipkins, added. “As a mother, no one understands how I feel. It’s like someone ripped my heart out.”
Emantic Bradford Sr. said his son had a permit to carry a concealed handgun, but officials have not confirmed that.
Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.