(Reuters) - The man gunned down by police who mistook him for the suspect in an Alabama shopping mall shooting on Thanksgiving night died after being struck by three bullets, all fired from behind him, a lawyer for his family said on Monday.
The official autopsy of Emantic “EJ” Bradford, 21, has yet to be released, but an independent review from a pathologist commissioned by his family indicates Bradford had his back to police when he was shot, civil rights attorney Ben Crump told reporters.
“It clearly demonstrates that EJ posed no threat to the off-duty Hoover Police Department officer who killed him while working a private security detail at Riverchase Galleria mall, since EJ was moving away from him,” Crump said.
He said the evidence corroborated accounts of multiple witnesses who said Bradford “was trying to help others.”
Two other people were wounded when gunfire erupted on the night of Nov. 22 in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover. Bradford was himself fatally shot in the ensuing pandemonium as police arrived and shoppers scattered for cover.
Police said Bradford, a black man, made a chaotic situation worse by drawing his own handgun, leading an officer to see him as a threat and open fire on him. Even after acknowledging the wrong man had been killed, police said Bradford “may have been involved in some aspect” of precipitating events.
The man since accused of being the shooter was arrested a week later in Georgia on suspicion of attempted murder.
By then, the case had attracted wide attention, with protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement branding the shooting as the latest example of police targeting minorities with unnecessary lethal force.
Firearms safety advocates also cited the incident as a counterpoint to arguments made by gun rights advocates that armed civilians in public places can help thwart would-be perpetrators of mass shootings.
The autopsy review from Crump showed Bradford was struck by bullets to his head, the base of his neck and his lower torso, all entering his body from the back.
Crump called it “the latest egregious example of a black man killed because he was perceived to be a threat due to the color of his skin.”
In response, the city of Hoover urged Crump to submit his report to state authorities investigating the shooting.
The city also declined to release any further information for now, including video or autopsy results, in order to protect “the integrity” of the investigation.”
Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney