BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The mother of a young black man killed by a police officer in an Alabama mall said on Tuesday he believes his son would still be alive if he had been targeted.
"I think the whole scenario would have developed differently, I really do," said April Pipkins in an interview with The Associated Press.
Pipkins' son, Emantic "EJ" Bradford Jr., 21, was shot dead on Thanksgiving night by a police officer who responded to a report of a shooting at a shopping center in the Riverchase Gallery.
Police initially described Bradford as the shooter of the mall. They said he had a gun in his hand, but then they said he was unlikely to fire the shots that wounded two people. They said the gunman is still at large.
Ben Crump, a lawyer representing the Bradford family, said there was a presumption that Bradford was the criminal because he was a black man. He said the witnesses contacted his law firm and that Bradford was trying to get people away from the shooting.
Pipkins described his son as a loving and kind young man. He went to the mall with friends on Thanksgiving night.
She did not know what happened to her son until Friday morning when he answered a call from one of his friends who had tried to locate her during the night. She has tried to avoid the images of the shots, but accidentally stumbled upon a photo on the social networks of her dead son on the floor of the mall.
"I did not want to see pictures of my son lying in a pool of blood and when I accidentally found him, I broke up, and I can not get him out of my head, I can not get the scene out of my head, my son lay there, no one around him to help him, he was just thrown away as a piece of trash where everyone can walk, parade and post pictures of him on social networks, "said Pipkins.
She said the police have not contacted her yet because of the shooting. She said her only official confirmation of her death was when she called the coroner's office.
She said the officer "should be punished for what he did."
Pipkins said his son attended Catholic school in Birmingham, but ended up getting his GED. She said she joined the Army and completed basic training, but had to leave due to a leg injury before completing specialty training.
The questions about the shooting triggered multiple demonstrations and a push from the Bradford family for authorities to release images of the body's camera and other videos.
Police have revealed little information about the shooting since the investigation was taken by the state because it was a gunfight involving an officer.
The city of Hoover and the police department issued a statement on Monday stating with "certainty" that Bradford had "a gun in hand while the cops responded to the situation of the active shooters among the customers of the mall."
The statement said that "instantly the feeling of threat increased when approaching the police officers who responded to the chaotic scene".
Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato on Monday pleaded for public patience as the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency investigates the shooting.
"We all want answers and we believe with patience and focus that the truth will be firmly established," Brocato said.