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Questions Swirl About Fatal Police Shooting


Now to Birmingham, Ala., where the family of a 21-year-old black man who was fatally shot by police is calling for justice. E.J. Bradford was killed outside a mall Thanksgiving night. At a press conference today, Bradford's family was accompanied by civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump. He's represented the families of several black men killed at the hands of police, including the high-profile cases of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. We're joined now by Gigi Douban of member station WBHM. Gigi, thanks for being here. And give us some background about this death.

GIGI DOUBAN, BYLINE: Well, Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford or E.J., as he's known to friends and family, was shot by police on Thanksgiving night. The shooting happened at a mall near Birmingham. And as you might imagine, the mall was full of shoppers ahead of Black Friday. Police initially said that the man they killed was the gunman who had shot an 18-year-old. And there was also a 12-year-old who was wounded that night. He was seen fleeing, and so police thought that they had the shooter. And the next day, authorities retracted that statement. As you can imagine, it was chaotic. And there were lots of police at the mall that night. They're usually beefing up patrols around the holidays to control traffic and deter crime. But after those shots rang out, one officer ran toward the shooting and saw a black man fleeing with a handgun. And the officer shot and killed him. That - go ahead.

PFEIFFER: Have the police said how they got this wrong?

DOUBAN: They haven't yet. And in fact, that was one of the family's big complaints was just the silence from the police department since they rushed to come out with that statement the night of the shooting and say that the shooter was E.J. Bradford.

PFEIFFER: Earlier today, the family did a public event of some kind with this lawyer. What happened at that event?

DOUBAN: Right. E.J. Bradford's family came out to Kelly Ingram Park. It is in Birmingham's Civil Rights District. And they were demanding justice for E.J.'s death.


APRIL PIPKINS: I just want everybody to understand this, that Thanksgiving will never be the same for me because that's the last time I saw my son - the last time.

DOUBAN: That was E.J. Bradford's mother that we heard from just then. And it's worth noting. As you might expect, this was a very emotional news conference. We heard also from one of his brothers and some other family members. At some point, E.J. Bradford's grandmother collapsed and had to be carried off as she was just overcome with grief. They're angered that they learned about E.J.'s death through social media. They say to this day, they haven't received a call from the Hoover Police Department. And they're demanding that police officials release all the video from that night, including surveillance video, body cams and videos that any witnesses might have turned in. And the assumption being because the mall was so crowded that night, there were several of those.

PFEIFFER: Any information shared today about what happens next in terms of the investigation? - how they determined who the correct shooter was if not this young man who died.

DOUBAN: Well, that's one of the family's points is that when you release these tapes, it can help the investigation along. And the real shooter from that night might be more quickly identified. The family has retained Benjamin Crump, who accompanied them during today's news conference. Crump is the attorney who has represented the families of several high-profile killings of black men at the hands of police and others, including Trayvon Martin in Florida, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Tamir Rice in Cleveland. And Crump says he'll pursue all legal avenues available to the family both at the state and the federal level.

PFEIFFER: That's Gigi Douban of member station WBHM. Gigi, thanks for keeping us updated on this. And we'll continue talking to you as you learn more.

DOUBAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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