Suspect arrested in Galleria shooting; protests continue

Suspect arrested in Galleria shooting; protests continue

By JAY REEVES and KATE BRUMBACK, Associated Press

HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — Authorities arrested a suspect in a Thanksgiving shooting that spread panic at Alabama’s largest shopping mall Thursday, but protesters said they would continue demonstrations over the police killing of another black man who was initially believed to be the shooter.

Erron Martez Dequan Brown, 20, of Bessemer was captured in Georgia at a relative’s home south of Atlanta, authorities said. He was jailed awaiting a hearing to be sent back to Alabama.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said Brown was charged in the shooting of Brian Xavier Wilson, 18, of Birmingham, who was wounded at the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover on Thanksgiving night.

Authorities didn’t announce charges in the shooting of another person who was wounded, 12-year-old girl, and a spokeswoman for the agency did not respond to an email seeking details.

Protesters said Brown’s arrest didn’t resolve what they referred to as the “murder” of Emantic “EJ” Bradford Jr., 21, by police, and they vowed continuing demonstrations over his shooting death.

“We’re asking members of the public to not spend another dime in Hoover until they take black lives seriously,” Carlos Chaverst Jr., who has helped organize protests, said at a news conference.

In a statement issued by their lawyer, Bradford’s relatives said they were gratified by Brown’s arrest and said it further underscored Bradford’s “unjust” death.

Police have said a Hoover police officer who was working security at the mall during the start of Black Friday shopping heard shots and responded within seconds. The officer, who has yet to be publicly identified, saw Bradford with a gun and shot him, police said.

Authorities at first identified Bradford as the shooter who wounded two people. They later retracted that allegation and searched for the real gunman.

Bradford’s relatives have said he had a permit to carry a gun legally, and their attorney Ben Crump has quoted witnesses as saying Bradford was trying to help when he was gunned down.

“He was a good guy with a gun,” Crump said.

Court records show Brown previously was arrested in June 2017 in Huntsville on a charge of using a gun to rob a man, but the case was dismissed three months later after prosecutors filed notice that they didn’t want to pursue the case.

As Brown was being arrested near Atlanta, city leaders in Hoover were publicly asking the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, which is investigating the shootings, for permission to release more information about the shooting of Bradford.

With its lone black City Council member, Derrick Murphy, acting as a spokesman, the city said it would look at releasing information on its own if no response came by noon Monday.

Demonstrators and relatives of Bradford have pushed authorities to release video and other evidence about the shooting. Murphy, who joined other leaders in meeting with Bradford’s relatives earlier this week, said the city wanted to help answer questions raised by the family.

“They have our love; they have our prayers,” he said.

Hoover is a city of 85,000 people that gained much of its population as white residents left Birmingham after the end of legalized racial segregation in neighboring Birmingham. Chaverst, one of the protest leaders, said the city was “built on racism.”

A statement from the state agency about Brown’s arrest said it was “highly likely” that releasing evidence would hamper the continuing investigation, but it didn’t directly address the city’s request.

The statement also did not say whether there was any relationship between Bradford and Brown, and a spokeswoman declined comment. The Bradford family lawyer, Crump, did not return a message about whether the two men knew each other.

A minister who described himself as the Bradford family’s pastor, Mike McClure Jr., said releasing video of the shooting would help calm growing tensions that have included days of protests and racist social media posts.

“When there is no information it only leads to imagination,” said McClure, one of two pastors who closed the councilman’s statement with prayer.

McClure said Bradford attended his church, and McClure will officiate at funeral services on Saturday which will include a eulogy by the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Timeline of Events

Authorities have told an evolving story in the aftermath of a shooting that left a black man dead inside Alabama’s largest shopping mall on Thanksgiving night.

The Hoover Police Department initially described a man killed by police inside the Riverchase Galleria as “the threat” in the shooting. But on Thursday, authorities arrested another man on a charge of attempted murder in the wounding of one of two people who were injured.

Here is a timeline of the case, which has sparked continuing protests over the police killing of Emantic “EJ” Bradford Jr.:

THURSDAY, NOV. 22

Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis told reporters that police officers “took out the threat” within seconds of a shooting at the mall. Police later identify the man shot by police as the 21-year-old Bradford.

Derzis said: “I’m very, very proud of the Hoover police officers who were on the scene. … They heard the gunfire. They engaged the subject and they took out the threat. …. I’m talking about seconds. From the time that shooting took place, they engaged and it was safe within seconds that it happened. … Our officers were close enough that they heard the gunfire. They saw the gentleman that got shot go down and then within seconds they encountered the individual with the gun who had just shot and then they engaged. This thing was very, very quick.”

FRIDAY, NOV. 23

Authorities retract earlier claims that Bradford was the shooter. From a police statement: “New evidence now suggests that while Mr. Bradford may have been involved in some aspect of the altercation, he likely did not fire the rounds that injured the 18-year-old victim. …. We regret that our initial media release was not totally accurate, but new evidence indicates that it was not.”

MONDAY, NOV. 26

After a weekend demonstration at the mall, the city and Hoover police issue a joint statement expressing sympathy to the Bradford family and attempting to update the situation.

It 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 police officers responding to the chaotic scene,” the statement said.

Later that same day, in response to media questions, the city clarifies that by “brandished” they meant that Bradford had a gun in his hand.

TUESDAY, NOV. 27, AND WEDNESDAY, NOV. 28

The city confirms that officials including the police chief met with members of the Bradford family on Nov. 27. The city issued a statement the next day that said officials: “expressed their sincerest condolences and prayers to Mr. Bradford’s family on their loss.

Chief Derzis acknowledged and apologized for the issuance of an inaccurate public statement in the wake of this tragedy that implied that Mr. Bradford was the suspected shooter.”

THURSDAY, NOV. 29

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency announces that Erron Martez Dequan Brown, 20, of Bessemer was captured in Georgia and charged with attempted murder in the shooting of one of two people wounded at the mall on Thanksgiving night. Around the same time, Hoover city officials asked state law enforcement officials who are investigating Bradford’s death for permission to release information about the shooting.

In response to Brown’s arrest, the city said in a statement: “This is an important milestone in the continued work to find answers about what happened in last Thursday’s tragic incident. The City continues to cooperate with ALEA to understand exactly what happened at the scene where Emantic ‘EJ’ Bradford, Jr. lost his life and an 18-year-old and 12-year-old were wounded.”