(Reuters) – Police in Alabama on Monday said that a man who was shot dead by an officer who wrongly suspected him of wounding two shoppers at a crowded mall on Thanksgiving had made a chaotic situation worse by drawing a gun when shots were fired.
Protesters gathered on Saturday outside the mall near Birmingham after the state’s Hoover Police Department said that Emantic Bradford, 21, was shot and killed by police following a shooting in which a 12-year-old girl and an 18-year-old man were wounded.
Hoover police had initially said they viewed Bradford as a suspect in the shooting but later said that was incorrect. They did not rule out his involvement in the altercation that led to the shooting.
According to local media reports, Bradford, who lived in the nearby suburb of Hueytown, served with the U.S. Army and was on home leave for Thanksgiving.
The suspect remains at large. The officer who shot Bradford was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, authorities 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 city of Hoover and its police department said in a joint statement.
U.S. gun rights advocates, including President Donald Trump, regularly suggest that having armed civilians in public places is an effective deterrent to crime.
The killing of Bradford, who was black, stirred concerns about police use of force against minorities. The protesters on Saturday held signs that said “Black Lives Matter” and “Stop Police Killings,” the local ABC-TV affiliate reported.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is leading the investigation into the shooting, the Hoover police said.
On Friday, a police statement said that Bradford “may have been involved in some aspect of the altercation” leading up to the shooting.
Bradford’s father, Emantic Bradford Sr., told CNN on Monday that police have yet to provide the family with a report of the shooting.
Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Grant McCool