HOOVER, Ala. — The father of a black man killed by a police officer during a shooting at an Alabama mall said his son had a permit to carry a gun for self-defense, adding it was hurtful police initially portrayed his son as the shooter.
Emantic ‘‘EJ’’ Bradford Jr., 21, was fatally shot by the officer responding to a Thanksgiving night shooting that wounded an 18-year-old man and a 12-year-old girl. Hoover police initially said they thought Bradford, who was carrying a handgun, was responsible but later retracted that statement.
Bradford’s father, Emantic Bradford Sr., said the family wants to know if there is police body camera footage of the shooting. Police have not confirmed whether such footage exists.
Police Captain Gregg Rector said investigators now believe more than two people were involved in a fight ahead of the shooting and that at least one gunman is still at large who could be responsible. Police said that while Bradford Jr. ‘‘may have been involved in some aspect of the altercation, he likely did not fire the rounds that wounded the 18-year-old victim.’’ Rector said police regret that their initial statement was not accurate.
About 200 demonstrators marched Saturday evening through the Riverchase Galleria mall in suburban Birmingham and held a moment of silence for Bradford at the spot where he was killed.
The slain man’s stepmother, Cynthia Bradford, described her stepson, who went by E.J., as a respectful young man whose father worked at a jail for the Birmingham Police Department. She also said of the initial police account: ‘‘We knew that was false.’’
The unanswered questions have stirred emotions in the suburb of the majority-black city of Birmingham.
Demonstrators on Saturday included several relatives, and they chanted ‘‘E.J’’ and ‘‘no justice, no peace’’ as they marched.
Family members described their horror of finding out from social media that Bradford was dead. Video circulated of Bradford lying in a pool of blood on the mall floor.
Bradford Sr. said his son had a permit to carry a weapon for self-defense. He said he doesn’t know exactly what happened at the mall but added: ‘‘They were so quick to rush to judgment. . . . I knew my son didn’t do that. People rushed to judgment. They shouldn’t have done that.’’
Carlos Chaverst, an activist in Birmingham who organized Saturday’s protest, said that when authorities acknowledged the person killed was not the actual shooter, ‘‘that sent us in an uproar.’’
He said more protests will be held to hold officials accountable.
‘‘When we found out about this incident, there were questions from the jump. People were upset because a man was shot and killed by police in our own backyard,’’ he said.
The incident began Thanksgiving night with a fight and shooting at the Riverchase Galleria, a mall crowded with Black Friday bargain hunters, according to authorities. An 18-year-old man was shot twice and a 12-year-old female bystander was shot in the back.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is investigating the incident since it is an officer-involved shooting. The Hoover Police Department is conducting its own internal investigation.
The officer who shot Bradford was placed on administrative leave. The officer’s name was not released. The officer was not hurt.
Video posted on social media by shoppers showed a chaotic scene as shoppers fled.
A witness, Lexi Joiner, told Al.com she was shopping with her mother when the gunfire started. Joiner said she heard six or seven shots and was ordered, along with some other shoppers, into a supply closet for cover.
‘‘It was terrifying,’’ Joiner said.