A 20-year-old man has been apprehended in connection with a Thanksgiving shooting incident that turned deadly at a shopping mall in Hoover, Alabama.
The initial shooting set off a chain reaction in which a police officer shot and killed an armed African-American man whose family claims was just trying to help calm the chaos, authorities said Thursday.
Erron Martez Dequan Brown was taken into custody in Fairburn, Georgia, Thursday morning for the attempted murder of 18-year-old Brian Xavier Wilson in a shooting at the Riverchase Galleria mall, according to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.
That shooting — in which Wilson was injured — also led to the fatal police-involved shooting of 21-year-old Emantic “EJ” Fitzgerald Bradford, according to authorities.
Bradford was shot by police after another man, first suspected to be Bradford but now believed to be Brown, and the 18-year-old got into a physical altercation, Hoover police said.
Authorities initially said they believed Bradford pulled out a gun and shot and injured the 18-year-old.
In the moments following the shooting, as Hoover police responded and worked to secure the scene, Bradford, who had a gun in his hand, was shot and killed by an officer, authorities said.
A 12-year-old was also shot and injured in the chaos.
However, police later said Bradford did not fire his gun in that initial altercation with the teen, and that the suspected gunman was actually at-large.
“They killed him for no reason at all. He wasn’t the shooter,” Bradford’s aunt, Catherine Jewell, told reporters Saturday. “He was a great guy, he was very respectable…They did him wrong.”
Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato, Hoover Police Chief Nicholas Derzis and a city councilman have met with Bradford’s family, expressing “their sincerest condolences and prayers,” the city said in a statement. “Chief Derzis acknowledged and apologized for the issuance of an inaccurate public statement in the wake of this tragedy that implied that Mr. Bradford was the suspected shooter.”
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) is leading the ongoing investigation.
The city of Hoover on Thursday said it’s cooperating “with ALEA to understand exactly what happened at the scene where Emantic ‘EJ’ Bradford, Jr. lost his life and an 18-year-old and 12-year-old were wounded.”
Community members have accused the police department of attempting to cover up in the incident and have demanded the police department release police bodycam footage and surveillance video from the mall that captured the initial shooting as well as the officer-involved shooting of Bradford, who had a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
“He shot an innocent person,” Jefferson County Millennial Democrats President Le’Darius Hilliard told reporters Thursday of the officer who shot Bradford.
“We want the release of the tapes,” Hilliard said. “We believe that the gunshot that hit EJ … had nothing to do with Erron [Brown] — we believe it has something to do with the Hoover Police Department. And if it had something to do with the Hoover Police Department, we want justice.”
“Racism is the core of the problem,” Hilliard added.
Hours earlier, Hoover City Councilman Derrick Murphy told reporters he requested that ALEA release information on the case to the public by noon on Monday.
“Mayor Frank Bracato, Chief Derzis and my fellow council members are all in full support of this request,” said Murphy.
He said if ALEA does not comply with the request, Derzis will decided whether to “release the limited information on his own.”
“We want to and are committed to getting to the truth and getting it right,” Bracato said at the news conference.
State investigators asked for patience in a statement Thursday, saying, “It is highly likely that prematurely releasing information, including video evidence, would have hampered the investigation’s progress thus far, even to the point of deterring key witnesses. As other witnesses continue to come forward, it is imperative for the integrity of the investigation that SBI continue to keep confidential information Agents obtain.”
Once Brown is extradited from Georgia he will be booked into the Jefferson County Jail in Birmingham on a $150,000 bond, authorities said. More charges are expected later in the investigation, authorities added.
Bradford’s funeral is set to take place Saturday, a family attorney said.