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Police: Black man killed by officer after Alabama shooting was not gunman

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Protesters have marched through an Alabama shopping centre where police killed a black man they later acknowledged was not the gunman in a shooting that wounded two people.

An officer shot and killed 21-year-old Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr of Hueytown while responding to the shooting on Thursday. Police said Bradford was fleeing the scene with a weapon. Hoover Police initially told reporters Mr Bradford had shot a teenager at the shopping centre, but later retracted the statement.

“We knew that was false,” said stepmother Cynthia Bradford when she heard police were blaming him for the shooting. She described her stepson, who went by the name EJ, as a respectful young man who is the son of a Birmingham police department officer.

Hoover Police Captain Gregg Rector said investigators now believe that more than two people were involved in the initial fight ahead of the shooting, and that “at least one gunman” is still at large who could be responsible.

Rector said police regret that their initial statement about Mr Bradford was not accurate. More than 200 demonstrators, including several relatives, chanted “EJ” and “no justice, no peace” as they marched past Christmas shoppers at the shopping centre. They held a moment of silence at the spot outside a shoe store where Bradford was killed.

“They should never have killed him,” Emani Smith, seven, Mr Bradford’s half-sister said, while other family members cried. Family members described their horror of finding out from social media that Mr Bradford was dead. Video circulated on social media of Bradford lying in a pool of blood on the shopping centre floor.

Police responded to a fight inside the Riverchase Galleria mall

The incident began with a fight and shooting in suburban Birmingham at the Riverchase Galleria, a shopping centre crowded with Black Friday bargain hunters. An 18-year-old was shot twice and a 12-year-old bystander was shot in the back.

Police said 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”. 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 Mr Bradford was placed on administrative leave while authorities investigate the shooting. The officer’s name was not released publicly. The officers were not hurt.

Mr Bradford is shown in photos on Facebook in an Army uniform and he described himself as a combat engineer. A spokesman for the US army, however, told The Washington Post that he “never completed advanced individual training,” and so did not serve.

Video posted on social media by shoppers showed a chaotic scene as shoppers fled the shopping centre, which closed for the remainder of Thursday night.

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