Hoover mayor: ‘We will defend our city and we will defend our police officers’
Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato has now spoken about the conclusion of the state’s investigation into E.J. Bradford, Jr.’s officer-involved shooting death.
The City of Hoover hosted a press conference Wednesday morning reacting to Attorney General Steve Marshall’s announcement the day prior that the officer who fatally shot Bradford at the Riverchase Galleria on Thanksgiving night was “justified” in his actions.
Brocato explained that he and leaders in the police department were “relieved” to receive the report concluding the investigation.
He stated, “We respect the attorney general’s findings and urge everyone to take the time to review that report in full.”
“Certainly they are relieved,’’ Brocato said of police administrators. “It’s been a long process and it’s caused a lot of anxiety through the city, so we’re relieved to have this report in front of us.”
The mayor made it clear that the unnamed officer has the city’s full support.
Brocato further advised that this support would include funding for any legal defense should a civil suit be filed in connection with the shooting. Bradford’s family, with prominent national civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump involved, has previously indicated that they would pursue civil remedies.
“We will defend our city and we will defend our police officers,’’ Brocato said.
The attorney general’s report did not release the officer’s name, and the city is following suit.
“The officer has some rights as well and just as any other private citizen that is investigated and found not to have committed a crime, their name is not released and that is the same procedure we will follow with this officer,’’ Brocato explained.
The officer is expected to return to work in the near future. He has been on paid leave since the shooting and his return is ultimately up to Hoover PD Chief Nick Derzis.
“The officer will go through a process of returning to work,’’ Brocato said.
He later added that the department’s internal investigation still needs to be completed regarding whether the office followed city policies throughout the incident. Hoover PD’s internal investigation could not be concluded until the state concluded their own case, but with the report now released, it should be completed soon.
Brocato’s focus was not just on the newly released report, but all of the victims of the tragedy.
“We ask the Hoover community to continue to pray for everyone that has been affected by this tragic incident of late last year.” He outlined, “This includes the families of Emantic Fitzgerald – better known as ‘EJ’ – Bradford Jr., Molly Davis and Brian Wilson. It also includes the hundreds of people who were in the mall that evening and faced the trauma of witnessing that situation in person.”
“We also ask for continued prayers for the police officers involved in this situation and the Hoover citizens who have felt the tensions and the highly emotional moments that transpired in the time since them. We realize strong emotions exist and will continue to be expressed from many viewpoints. It’s our strong desire to have reconciliation and understanding as we approach the future,” Brocato added.
The mayor also spoke of his administration’s desire to see “ongoing” reconciliation efforts result in bringing “healing and unity” to the area.
Protesters burned two American flags outside of Hoover City Hall Tuesday evening and took to Marshall’s office in Montgomery Wednesday. They have vowed to continue demonstrations, possibly even traveling to the attorney general’s home in Marshall County soon. Regardless, Brocato said just as they will defend the city and its officers, they will likewise defend the protesters’ constitutional rights to peaceably assemble.
“As I said, we will vigorously defend our city and our police officers. We will vigorously defend individuals’ right to protest, their First Amendment right. I think we have a very good track record showing that,” Brocato told reporters.
“We certainly have a plan and we won’t be surprised by anything,’’ the mayor emphasized. “I think that we have shown good faith in making sure that when it comes to our city and protests that they are safe and we’ll continue to do that. As I said earlier, there’s a First Amendment right there, and it’s our job to protect that right.”
Brocato advised that protests “certainly” have had “some impact” on Hoover’s economy, but that in the end, the Riverchase Galleria shooting and aftermath led many Alabamians in the Birmingham-metro area and throughout the state to travel in to support the city.
“[T]alking to the Galleria manager, he told us that he had a very robust Christmas [season],” the mayor shared. “The numbers will bear all this out.”
Watch the press conference:
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn