It’s a different day but the same painful story–police have murdered another Black person. This time it was 21-year old Emantic “EJ” Bradford Jr. On Thanksgiving evening, the sounds of gunfire caused chaos at Riverchase Galleria, a shopping mall in Hoover, Alabama.1 An off-duty police officer wrongfully assumed EJ was the shooter and killed him.2 Not only is EJ’s family left distraught and without a son, but the family is not getting any clear answers from the Hoover Police Department about what happened. Right after the killing of EJ, Hoover Police Department Captain Gregg Rector said: “the man who fired was confronted by officers as he tried to flee.”3
This is where the Hoover Police’s lies start to unravel: The day after the shooting, the police issued a statement saying “one of the officers encountered a suspect brandishing a pistol and shot him.”4 Then later that same day, the Hoover police issued another statement admitting that there’s evidence that EJ was not the shooter. The next week, police issued another statement saying, “With certainty, Mr. Bradford brandished a gun during the seconds following the gunshots.”5 Eventually, the police backtracked again and stated EJ wasn’t brandishing a gun at all–and autopsy reports confirmed he was shot in the back.6 The failure to hold police accountable is and has been killing us. For years, our communities fought back against the lies and damage police violence has caused, putting immense pressure on law enforcement leaders to better hold police accountable. And just recently, after Color Of Change members stood with the Dallas community and the family of Botham Jean, his killer Amber Guyger was finally charged with murder. When we stand up for justice, we can win–and that’s why we must continue this fight. While the investigation is in the hands of the state, it is still up the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office to file the charges. Right now, we must build up the pressure on newly elected Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr to do the right thing and bring charges against the Hoover police officers who murdered EJ.
Jefferson County, Alabama District Attorney Danny Carr has become the first Black person elected to this position after beating 35-year incumbent Mike Anderton. But this new DA has already worked in the Jefferson County DA’s office since 2000, under Mike Anderton’s leadership. DA Carr has said that fairness and transparency are his top priorities — we must hold him accountable to his words. DA Carr still must prove he can do what’s right.
The police killing of Emantic Bradford Jr. is just another heartbreaking reminder that Black people are constantly seen as targets and threats in this country — even when making the sacrifice to protect others. Cops wield lethal weapons and openly hide behind their badges. But when Black people legally carry weapons, their right to bear arms is stripped away with the threat of death. According to EJ’s family, he likely had a gun with him as a form of protection. Alabama is one of 45 states that have an open-carry law.7 Yet police saw EJ as a threat and assumed he was the gunman. Just two weeks ago, Jemel Roberson, a Black father to a nine-month-old child, was killed by police while working as a security guard at a bar. He restrained an individual who pulled out a gun and began shooting. But instead of being acknowledged as a hero, police again assumed he was the assailant and killed Jemel with no warning.8
Right after the horrendous mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, NRA leader Wayne LaPierre said: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”9 But that is never the case when Black people step up to protect themselves, their communities and loved ones. We still remember the painful viral footage of Philando Castile’s death, who was outright shot and killed in front of his partner and daughter, during a traffic stop on July 6, 2016, in Minnesota. Philando notified the officer that he had a permit to carry. Philando was not dangerous or violent and yet in an instant, the cop ended his life. While mass shootings across the country in high schools, movie theaters, malls, grocery stores, and religious spaces continue to be perpetrated by white men, Black people are still deemed dangerous simply for being Black.
Police officers continue to wreak havoc on the lives of Black people with no end in sight. In just this year alone roughly 876 people have been shot and killed by police.10 Of that, nearly 200 Black people have been killed by police.11 Very few officers are even prosecuted for killing Black people. Now EJ has been added to this horrific list. District Attorneys must step up their leadership in holding police officers accountable and stop letting cops get away with murder. Elected prosecutors remain the most influential role in law enforcement and criminal justice. The outcome of the investigation should be clear — charge these cops.
The Bradford family will now have to do the unthinkable in going forward with their lives without EJ. Ensuring the person who killed EJ is held accountable is just one step towards real justice.