Demonstrators closed down a major Alabama highway during rush hour Monday in protest of an officer-involved shooting that left an innocent black man dead.
Several dozen protesters blocked traffic on U.S. Highway 31 in Interstate 459 in Hoover, Alabama, demanding justice for 21-year old Emantic “EJ” Bradford Jr., who had been murdered by police officers in a mall on Thanksgiving.
Hoover Police originally referred to as an officer a hero for taking down Bradford, who had been seen holding a gun in the aftermath of a disorderly shooting at Riverchase Galleria mall at Hoover, just south of Birmingham.
Police retracted the statement later, saying officers had wrongly targeted Bradford as the gunman who shot an 18-year old and a 12-year-old bystander minutes before. The true suspect remains at large.
Protesters in Monday’s demonstration held signs that read “Black Lives Matter,” “Justice for EJ,” and “Justice starts with the truth,” as speakers passed around a bullhorn, demanding justice, transparency and accountability from city officials.
“Can you imagine your child being labeled as a gunman all across the world,” one protester said. “The police lied! We don’t know anything about the officer.”
“I find it amazing that you shot this young brother, EJ Bradford, in the face, but you are hiding yours,” another protester added.
Monday’s protest started shortly after Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato issued a statement that urged patience in response to the shooting.
“The loss of any fellow human being is deeply tragic, whatever the circumstances. We all want answers and we believe that with patience and focus, the truth will be firmly established,” Brocato said, noting that the analysis was turned over to the nation. We must trust the justice process and we beg your patience in that. There is really not a lot we could say at this stage since the investigation isn’t in the city’s hands.”
Protesters, together with the victim’s family, have called for the release of authorities bodycam footage from the shooting. They have also demanded an apology from the police department.
“It hurts me to the core. My son is gone and I can’t get him back. But you vilified my son like he was a straight criminal on Facebook and National TV,” Bradford’s dad, Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Sr., stated in a news conference on Sunday, speaking to police and town officials. “You need to clean up and apologize. I want an apology, his mother needs one, his grandmother definitely needs one.”
He explained responding officers “rushed to judgement” and taken his son .
“My son was a loving, very loving young man. He would give any of you the shirt off his back. And that’s true. He loved people, period. He was not a killer,” the victim’s mother, April Pipkins, included. “As a mother, no one understands how I feel. It’s like someone ripped my heart out.”
Emantic Bradford Sr. said his son had a license to carry a concealed handgun, but officials haven’t confirmed that.
ABC News’ Mark Osborne and Bill Hutchinson contributed to this report.