Emantic Bradford Jr. happened to be at an Alabama mall when shooting began. He himself was armed; he was licensed to carry a firearm in the state. So he rushed toward the shooting. He was literally a good guy with a gun, the fabled creation of gun rights advocates who insist that the existence of individuals like Bradford Jr. is worth all of the risk that comes along with a heavily armed populace.
But unfortunately for both Bradford Jr. and the very clean mythology of good guys with guns, the Hoover Police Department arrived on the scene too. The HPD assumed that Bradford Jr. must be the shooter. They drew this conclusion immediately, without bothering to slow down, to ask questions, or to bother doing anything to establish the accuracy of their conclusion. They shot Bradford Jr. several times, refused to offer him medical attention, and let him die where he had once stood. But they were utterly convinced of his guilt and decided to bathe themselves in the glory that they were sure that they had earned. They celebrated with a press conference declaring their heroism. They said that Bradford Jr. was the shooter. They insisted that they were very proud of the specific officer who had gunned Bradford Jr. down.
The story fell apart within hours. It became clear that Bradford Jr. was the good guy with the gun, that police had killed the wrong man, and that while celebrating having done so, they let the original shooter escape the scene. The police department followed up with press releases: a shockingly tone-deaf first attempt that implied that Bradford Jr. must have done something to justify the police decision to kill him, and a slightly less tone-deaf second attempt that was rightly recognized as a pathetic attempt to right the department’s most recent wrong.
Then the case went silent. Authorities in Alabama assured everyone that the situation was being investigated and that those investigators needed to be trusted to arrive at a just and fair conclusion.
That investigation wrapped up yesterday. It found that the still unnamed police officer who killed Bradford Jr. had done nothing wrong, that nobody would be charged in Bradford Jr.’s death, that Bradford Jr.’s life was entirely meaningless, and that everything that happened was entirely reasonable.
Attorney General @AGSteveMarshall releases report on Officer-involved shooting.
— Hoover Police Dept (@HooverPD) February 5, 2019
Marshall set up this website that offers links to all publicly available materials about the shooting including the video itself, which shows officers killing Bradford Jr. immediately upon encountering him, without bothering to give him a chance to survive his encounter with them. Marshall also wrote up a report exonerating the unnamed officer. Per Marshall’s report:
The fact that Officer 1 mistakenly believed that E.J. Bradford fired the initial two shots that
injured Brian Wilson does not render his actions unreasonable for two reasons. First, a reasonable person could have assumed that the only person with a gun who was running toward the victim of a shooting that occurred just three seconds earlier fired the shots. In fact, three other persons with similar second-floor vantage points—Eyewitness 1, Eyewitness 2, and Officer 2—all stated that, in that moment, they believed E.J. Bradford shot Brian Wilson.
Second, as previously explained, Officer 1’s primary duty and training was to eliminate any threat to innocent civilians and first responders. While it is now known that E.J. Bradford did not shoot Brian Wilson, Bradford still posed an immediate deadly threat to persons in the area. Video evidence suggests that Bradford, who was carrying a firearm, was running toward the initial shooter, Erron Brown, who was also carrying a firearm. Multiple shoppers were nearby, including a mother and child directly in between the two armed men:
That bolded sentence is an actual sentence that Marshall wrote. Even in acknowledging Bradford Jr.’s innocence, Marshall cannot help but to parrot the line that the Hoover Police Department used in its various tellings of the story: that Bradford Jr. was a threat. Even though he was not a threat. Even though he was innocent. Even though Bradford Jr. was literally the good guy with a gun that folks like Steve Marshall love to champion in the abstract.
Fun fact about Marshall: in 2017, he sued the City of Birmingham when its government refused to celebrate the Confederacy to his satisfaction. That was a crime that mattered very much to the state’s attorney general. That was a crime that necessitated justice. That was a crime that demanded wrongs be righted. But Emantic Bradford’s killing? That required nothing at all.