By JAY REEVES, Associated Press
HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — What exactly happened inside Alabama’s largest shopping mall on Thanksgiving night when police shot and killed a black man, sparking weeks of protests? That question remains unanswered more than two weeks later.
The name of Emantic “EJ” Bradford Jr. has become a rallying point for demonstrators angered by his death, and a suspect is in jail on charges of shooting another man who was wounded amid a flurry of gunfire in a shopping center decorated for the holidays. While authorities have promised transparency, the Rev. Jesse Jackson has claimed police are covering up details of the slaying.
Here are a few of the lingering questions surrounding Bradford’s death:
WHAT STARTED IT ALL?
A confrontation occurred among an as-yet undetermined number of young men who were at least acquainted with each other — an attorney for the shooting suspect, Erron Brown, referred to it has an “ongoing thing” and not a random dispute. The lawyer, Charles Salvagio, also disputed reports and rumors that it was a disagreement over shoes.
But neither witnesses nor authorities have said who was first to pull out a weapon, or precisely why. Police have said an on-duty officer saw Bradford with a gun after an initial burst of gunfire, prompting the officer to shoot Bradford.
Before arresting Brown, police recanted their initial claim that Bradford was the gunman who shot two people who were wounded. Mall policy prohibits any weapons.
HOW MANY SHOTS WERE FIRED, AND BY WHOM?
At least five shots rang out inside the Riverchase Galleria mall in suburban Hoover based on accounts by authorities and a forensic examination released by Bradford’s family, which says Bradford had a permit to carry a weapon.
Three bullets struck Bradford and at least two fired moments before hit Brian Xavier Wilson, 18, of Birmingham.
Beyond that, it’s difficult to say how many shots were fired, sending panicked shoppers running for mall exits, or who fired them.
Police charged Brown with shooting Wilson but not a 12-year-old girl who also was wounded; authorities haven’t said who shot her. Bullets that passed through Bradford and Wilson could have struck someone else.
WHO SHOT WHOM?
Police have said an officer shot Bradford, but it’s unclear whether police fired all three shots that hit him. Authorities also have charged Brown with shooting Wilson.
The 12-year-old girl was an innocent bystander by all counts.
The child’s mother has written on social media that the slug remained lodged in the child’s back after the shooting, and that doctors decided against removing it. If so, that would make a ballistics comparison impossible and reduce the chances of determining who is to blame for her injuries.
DOES VIDEO SHOW WHAT HAPPENED?
Video exists, but the public doesn’t know what it shows because it hasn’t been released.
Police in Hoover said they can’t release video or other evidence because the case is being investigating by state police at the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. State officials have refused to release any information, saying that to do so could harm the continuing probe.
A judge has ordered authorities to release video evidence to Brown’s attorney, but it is unclear whether that will ever lead to images of the violence becoming public. Lawyers for Bradford’s family said they have seen some of the video, but state officials and the attorneys have not commented.
Video posted on social media showed the chaos that followed the gunfire, with shoppers screaming and fleeing and a man lying in blood on the floor. But definitive images of the shooting itself have yet to surface.