Emantic “E.J.” Bradford’s parents, Bradford family attorney Ben Crump, the ACLU of Alabama, and Alabama NAACP sued the attorney general of Alabama and Hoover Police Department for release of body camera footage, surveillance footage, and documents regarding the tragic shooting of E.J. Bradford, including release of the officers’ names.
Bradford was a black man who according to witnesses was trying to protect people during an active shooting at the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover, Alabama. An unnamed Hoover police department officer shot Bradford three times from behind without warning, killing him. In February, Attorney General Steve Marshall issued a report declining to prosecute the police officer, concluding that the officer’s actions were “justified and not criminal.”
“First they killed my son, then they gave us some ridiculous explanation, now they want us to trust their version of what happened. That is simply not going to happen,” said Emantic Bradford Sr., E.J.’s father. “They owe me so much in exchange for my son’s life, and at the very least they owe me the truth. It appears the state of Alabama has no shame, and if they are not going to turn over the video and release the name of the officer who killed E.J., we’re going to have to get a court order to make them.”
The coalition is filing the lawsuit to obtain a complete response to their February 20 Public Records Request for the release of video footage, names of the officers involved, documents related to the attorney general’s decision to assert jurisdiction over the investigation, and the documents the attorney general reviewed in the investigation. Attorney General Marshall responded to that request by refusing to produce videos, documents, and even the names of officers. He asserted, among other reasons, that disclosing any information would “negatively impact…the personal safety of law enforcement officials.”
“No Choice But To Sue”
“It’s ludicrous and insulting that the state of Alabama thinks we should simply take their word about what happened, without letting us see the full and unedited video footage and without releasing the officer’s name who killed E.J.,” Bradford family attorney Ben Crump said. “In a state with the racial history of Alabama, why would anyone believe their account of a white officer shooting a black man, especially when they’re trying to hide some of the evidence? It’s so unfortunate they have left us with no choice but to sue for video they don’t want us to see and for the name of the officer to be released.”
“E.J.’s family and the people of Alabama deserve transparency and accountability from the police department responsible for the death of an innocent black man,” said ACLU of Alabama Executive Director Randall Marshall. “It’s repugnant that Attorney General Marshall is hiding behind unfounded claims that transparency would endanger law enforcement when refusing to disclose the footage and documents we requested.”
“The NAACP is very disappointed in how the Attorney General Marshall took the case away from the first African-American district attorney in Jefferson County, who would have had jurisdiction over the case,” said Benard Simelton, president of the Alabama NAACP. “Danny Carr was elected by the people of Jefferson County and he should have been given the opportunity to do his job. Now, much of the crucial evidence is being withheld from the public, and most importantly it’s being withheld from E.J.’s Family.”
Implicit Bias Training
In addition to the Public Records Request that is the subject of this lawsuit, the civil rights groups jointly filed a Public Records Request seeking information on implicit bias policies and training, use-of-force policies and training, and guidelines for active shooter situations. The Hoover Police Department agreed to produce those documents without litigation but is still in the process of providing them. The policies produced so far offer only barebones, limited guidance about when and how to use lethal force in particular situations.
HPD initially said Bradford “was fleeing the shooting scene while brandishing a handgun” when an officer shot him in a corridor outside the JCPenney store.
The police then released another modified statement that said, “We can say with certainty Mr. Bradford brandished a gun during the seconds following the gunshots which instantly heightened the sense of threat to approaching officers responding to the chaotic scene.”