HOOVER, Ala. — A 21-year-old man killed by an officer at a mall in Alabama on Thanksgiving night “likely did not fire” the shots that wounded two people and sent terrified shoppers running for cover, police said.
The shooting at the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover happened Thursday night, one of the year’s busiest shopping days.
Authorities mistakenly thought Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr. fired the rounds that left an 18-year-old and a 12-year-old hospitalized, said Capt. Gregg Rector, a spokesman for the Hoover Police Department.
Police initially said Bradford opened fire after an altercation with the 18-year-old, and an officer fatally shot him as he fled the scene. But late Friday night, police said while Bradford was involved in “some aspect of the altercation” and was armed with a handgun, he likely did not fire the rounds that injured the two people.
“We regret that our initial media release was not totally accurate, but new evidence indicates that it was not,” Rector said.
Police: Altercation involved more than 2 people
Police said the error came to light after Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office investigators and crime scene experts spoke to witnesses and examined evidence for 20 hours.
“Investigators now believe that more than two individuals were involved in the initial altercation,” Rector said. “This information indicates that there is at least one gunman still at large.”
The officer involved in the shooting is on administrative leave pending an investigation.
Hoover police will cooperate fully in the investigation and will conduct an internal separate investigation on the officer-involved shooting part of the case, Rector said.
The shooting at Alabama’s largest enclosed mall occurred shortly before 10 p.m. (11 p.m. ET) Thursday night.
Police do not know how the confrontation began, but said they did not believe the 18-year-old was armed. The gunman opened fire, shooting the teen twice in the torso, according to police.
An armed Hoover police officer who was working security at the mall confronted an armed man running away from the scene and fatally shot him, authorities said.
A 12-year-old girl described by police as a bystander was shot once, but it’s unclear by whom, Rector said. Both of the injured were taken to hospitals.
Witnesses described chaotic scenes when gunshots rang out, with customers screaming and staff working to help people flee or hide, witnesses said.
“They (put) us in supply closets and locked the doors. And then we sat there for five to 10 minutes, all freaking out,” Lexie Joyner told CNN affiliate WBRC. “And then they opened the escape-route doors, and we escaped.”
Hoover is about 10 miles south of Birmingham.