On Thursday, Nov. 22, according to police and media reports, an alleged altercation between a group of individuals led to a shooting at the Riverchase Galleria Mall in Hoover, Alabama. Panicked and confused, flights of running and screaming people — ranging from children to the elderly — fled the scene hoping they would not become a victim of another American mass shooting. Area college students were inside the mall when the events transpired.
“My mother and I both commented on how busy the mall was on Thanksgiving evening,” Savannah Stewart, a senior Samford University Journalism and Mass Communications major, said. “All I remember is looking toward the inside of the mall and seeing everyone running and screaming. My initial thought was that they had opened a door to a big department store and people were racing toward the sale.”
According to police reports, two individuals were engaged in a physical altercation on the second floor of the mall near Footaction. Police inside the mall responded to the scene following the gun shots.
“I was at Footlocker directly under where it happened. Fortunately, I ran into friends and talked to them, we heard gunshots and we ran into a dressing room for 30 seconds and we were told there was a back entrance,” sophomore Southern Union student Hunter Bussey said.
During the altercation, according to reports, one of the men took a gun and fired, wounding the other individual. A 12-year-old girl was caught in the crosshairs and was hit by a stray bullet.
Seconds following the shooting, Stewart said she and hundreds of other mall-goers ran toward the exits.
“(My mother) had fallen several times and many people tripped over merchandise and storage in the back rooms of the stores running for safety,” Stewart said. “We made it to the outside of the mall through a back door but were unsure if there was active shooting going on outside of the mall.”
When police arrived on the scene, they shot and killed a male who “brandished a gun during the seconds following the gunshots,” according to a Hoover Police Department statement. As more officers arrived on scene, Hoover dispatch said over the radio, “be advised, the shooter is down.”
“I couldn’t see much, we were on the bottom floor, the people running and screaming was a little overwhelming,” Bussey said.
The following day, Hoover Police released a statement saying the man who they shot, Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., was not the gunman responsible for shooting the two individuals, and the suspect is still at large.
In a statement, Hoover Police said, “The initial shooter is still at large and law enforcement is working diligently to apprehend this individual.”
The family of Bradford, according to the New York Times said, “Outside the mall, Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr. pulled out a gun and rushed to protect shoppers.”
In the days following the shooting, protestors gathered outside of the mall, called for a boycott of Riverchase Galleria and expressed their desire for police to be held to a higher standard.
In an interview with CNN, Bradford family’s lawyer, Benjamin L. Crump, claimed that the police officer fired shots “within milliseconds” of arriving at the scene and did not issue any verbal commands.
The Alabama Department of Law Enforcement is the lead investigating agency in the officer-involved shooting and is still reviewing information and body-cam footage.