By Ameera Steward
The Birmingham Times
Friends, family, activists, elected officials and dignitaries gathered Saturday at the Boutwell Auditorium in downtown Birmingham to bid a solemn farewell to Emantic Fitzgerald “E.J.” Bradford Jr. who was shot and killed on Thanksgiving by a Hoover police officer at the Galleria Mall.
Those in attendance on a rainy and overcast day included the Rev. Jessie Jackson, activist Carlos Chaverst Jr., Jefferson County Commissioner Lashunda Scales and friends of Emantic Bradford Jr.
Jackson, who delivered the eulogy, said to the mourners, “in the face of Emantic’s unjustified death we can decide the value of his life … his name will not die, his blood will not have been shed in vain, as long as we remember him. We will not forget him. The officer who took Emantic’s life…must face justice.”
Jackson added, “In Emantic’s memory we demand equal protection under the law. In his memory we want … to see the tapes now,” said Jackson.
Protesters have demanded that police turn over video tapes and body cam of the shooting. Hoover police have said that the tapes are in the hands of Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), which is handling the investigation.
The services were emotional from the beginning as Bradford’s mother, April Pipkins, fainted while family viewed the body. She was taken out and returned in a wheelchair with a paramedic by her side.
Bradford’s father, Emantic Bradford Sr., was given a standing ovation when he walked to the stage. He spoke on how when he began chemo treatments his son would check on him. The dad said he noticed then that his son was being responsible.
“My child was a good child, and I love the conversations we used to have all the time…the years that I had with him were 21 good years…till this day, he’s always going to be my hero,” Bradford, Sr. said.
He became emotional when he said, “I hear him. He’s telling me right now, ‘daddy it’s gone be alright, we gone be alright daddy’….I’ll see my baby soon. But my baby gone, but I love you. The good memories that we had were real good…”
Commissioner Scales said she was in attendance as more than a public official. “I can speak from compassion because I been there… I know when all of this is over, this is when you’re going to need the community,” she said to the family. “We are with you now . . . [and] in the days to come because you need to pull on our strength.”
Chaverst, who has led protests at the Galleria Mall and other locations in Hoover, said he will continue to demand justice in the shooting.
The protests come as Hoover city and police officials have apologized to the Bradford family for initially identifying the younger Bradford as the shooter in a dispute that led to the wounding of 18-year-old Brian Wilson and 12-year-old Molly Davis.
They have said Bradford, a native of Hueytown, was not likely the shooter.
Chaverst said, “We’re going to fight even when the cameras are gone. We’re going to fight when this matter becomes less trendy. We’re going to fight with every single thing in us.
Friends of Bradford — Germy Adams, Jamari Coney, Tra’Vontae Todd and Kriston Peterson – all spoke and each gave the audience, and those who didn’t know Bradford personally, a glimpse of the kind of friend and person Bradford was.
Adams prepared a spoken word piece for his remarks and said, in part, “I’ll never forget the times we shined, the times we struggled, no matter . . . we were genuinely there for each other. Everything still feels unreal but I know this how it’s got to be, only thing I ask is if you’ll save a spot in heaven for me. I love you boy, for life.”
Peterson emphasized how he and Bradford took care of one another, but more so how how Bradford cared for everyone.
“It was always love with E.J. He was more than just a friend, he was always somebody you could call on. Everybody called E.J and he was always going to come, come in smiling….E.J was a wonderful person, he’s going forever to be remembered.”