Private Autopsy Provides More Clues In Alabama Police Shooting
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
It is a measure of the distrust felt by the family of Emantic EJ Bradford Jr. that they ordered a private autopsy of his body. Police shot and killed the black man on Thanksgiving in Alabama. He was at a crowded shopping mall south of Birmingham when a fight broke out and shots were fired. Police said they saw Bradford fleeing and shot him, but the next day, authorities said he was not involved in the shooting, and that led to this autopsy. Andrew Yeager of our member station, WBHM, is covering this story from Birmingham. Hey there, Andrew.
ANDREW YEAGER, BYLINE: Good to be with you.
INSKEEP: What's the autopsy find?
YEAGER: Well, the autopsy that was presented yesterday said that Bradford was shot three times. They said he was shot in the head, neck and back, and said he was struck from the back, so the family says that this shows Bradford was not facing police. He was not a threat to them and therefore, they argue that he - police didn't have any justification to shoot him at all. When they presented this at a press conference yesterday, Emantic Bradford Sr., Bradford's father, was there. He spoke. He was angry, frustrated, and he did not mince words about what he thought of the police officer involved.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
EMANTIC BRADFORD SR: My son was murdered by this officer, and that was cowardice. You shot a 21-year-old person running away from gunfire. Never posed you a threat, never had nothing in his hand - why did you shoot him? You can't explain that to me because that ain't training. That's cowardice. You're a coward.
INSKEEP: There is a key phrase there that I want to ask about, Andrew. We learned from the autopsy that according to that, that this man was shot in the back. He seemed to be facing away from police at the time he was shot. But then his father says, never had nothing in his hand. Haven't police said that he had a gun?
YEAGER: Police have said he had a gun. And initially, as this developed, police said that he was brandishing a weapon. Then they later clarified to say that he just had a gun in his hand - brandishing suggesting that he was using it in a threatening manner. That comes from police. The family has responded that Bradford did have a permit to carry a weapon, and again said - they've suggested that he wasn't a threat. In fact, that he might have been helping people at the scene as these shots rang out.
INSKEEP: Sure. And I'm thinking of all the different - all the room for differing interpretations or different facts there. Just because he had a permit doesn't mean it was in his hand. We don't know that for sure. Even if he had it in his hand, where was he waving it? Where was he pointing it? There are a lot of questions here still unanswered it seems.
YEAGER: There are a lot of questions, and we really don't have much from official sources. The investigation has been turned over to state law enforcement, and they have declined to really release any evidence. And the main point of contention is body camera footage, surveillance footage, something that would show us what happened or give us evidence of what happened. And protesters, the family, have pushed to have that released. And so far, officials have not done so, saying they don't want to compromise this investigation that's still ongoing.
INSKEEP: Although, in the meantime, police have admitted they definitely did shoot the wrong guy, and they arrested someone else, right?
YEAGER: They did. They arrested 20-year-old Erron Brown in Georgia last week. The authorities say that he was staying at a relative's house. He was brought to Birmingham yesterday and charged with attempted murder in the shooting of an 18-year-old who was wounded in that shooting Thanksgiving night. Prosecutors say more charges are possible, and so this case is far from over.
INSKEEP: Andrew, thanks very much for the update, really appreciate it.
YEAGER: Happy to do it.
INSKEEP: Andrew Yeager is a reporter with our member station, WBHM, in Birmingham. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.