Citing Conflicts of Interest, Alabama AG Takes Over Mall Shooting Investigation
By Carol Robinson
The Alabama Attorney General's Office is taking over the case of the Thanksgiving shooting death of Emantic Fitzgerald "EJ" Bradford Jr. and the wounding of two other people inside the Riverchase Galleria .
Attorney General Steve Marshall said his office is assuming jurisdiction after the admission by Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr in a letter to Marshall of the presence of potential conflicts between himself and key parties in the case. Marshall met with Carr on Monday in Birmingham, and said he also has had multiple conversations with him. Efforts by AL.com to reach Carr were not immediately successful.
Carr's potential conflicts appear to be his relationships with several of the organizers of ongoing protests over Bradford's death. The day after the Nov. 7 election, Carlos Chaverst Jr. posted this on Facebook, accompanied by two photos of himself with Carr.
"Mannnnnnnnnnnn last night was historic. My brother Danny Carr was elected as the first black District Attorney of Jefferson County. This journey began over a year ago. After it was known that Mr. Charles Henderson couldn't serve as DA, Danny was appointed as Interim DA. That day we launched a campaign asking Governor Ivey to appoint him to the seat until the election. After garnishing thousands of signatures and running an extensive campaign, it still didn't sway her. We knew than we wanted Danny Carr elected as DA and that's what we got."
Chaverst in 2017 had launched a petition for the governor to keep Carr as district attorney, netting more than 1,500 signatures. Also, protester Le'Darius Hilliard attended Carr's swearing in on Wednesday.
Initially, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office was brought in to investigate the case at the request of Hoover police and then-District Attorney Mike Anderton. It is standard procedure for an outside agency to investigate officer-involved shootings.
Two days after the shooting, however, Anderton asked the State Bureau of Investigation to take over the probe at the request after authorities determined a potential key witness in the mall incident is a cousin of the wife of Jefferson County Sheriff-Elect Mark Pettway.
Since then, Carr has taken office and assumed responsibility for the case. Marshall said Carr shared with him another potential conflict -- the officer involved in the deadly shooting is a material witness in at least 20 cases pending in Jefferson County. "Those are 20 victims who deserve justice like other victims in other cases," Marshall said.
Marshall said Carr did not ask to be recused from the cases. "He specifically told me he would like to continue this case and did not ask to be recused," Marshall said.
He shared his response to Carr's letter:
"I have reviewed your December 11th letter regarding your prosecutorial role in the shooting death of Emantic 'E.J.' Bradford, Jr.," Attorney General Marshall wrote District Attorney Carr. "Based on the information you provided in that letter and our multiple conversations on the subject--particularly your acknowledgement that 'a fair-minded, objective observer could conclude that a conflict exists'--I have determined that the National Prosecution Standards dictate your recusal from the investigation of each of the shootings that occurred in the Riverchase Galleria on Thanksgiving night, not just E.J. Bradford's." Marshall continued, "While I have no reason to believe that you are actually biased or compromised, I agree that other fair-minded persons might question your neutrality based on the information that you provided in the letter and during our private conversations. For example, you state that the officer who shot Mr. Bradford is either the charging officer or a witness in approximately 20 cases pending in your office. A fair-minded Defendant (or family member) in those cases could question whether you and/or your prosecutors are biased in favor of protecting the officer from prosecution because the officer's testimony may be important in his or her case. On the flip side, you acknowledge personal relationships with some of the protesters who are calling for the officer who shot Mr. Bradford to be criminally prosecuted, which could lead a fair-minded person to question your bias in favor of indictment. I have weighed these factors and others mentioned during our conversations and agree that, when taken as a whole, these factors warrant recusal under Rule 1-3.3(d)."
Marshall said under National Prosecution Standards rule 1-3.3(d), the prosecutor should excuse himself or herself from any investigation, prosecution, or other matter where personal interests of the prosecutor would cause a fair-minded, objective observer to conclude that the prosecutor's neutrality, judgment, or ability to administer the law in an objective manner may be compromised.
Marshall further noted that his office would also prosecute the shootings of 18-year-old Brian Wilson and 12-year-old Molly Davis.
"Your letter requests guidance on the 'officer-involved' shooting of E.J. Bradford; it does not mention the shootings of Brian Wilson and Molly Davis. However, it is my understanding that all three shootings were part of a single chain of events. Thus, the investigation of Mr. Bradford's shooting is inextricably intertwined with the investigation into the shootings of Mr. Wilson and Ms. Davis and must be conducted by the same entity. Accordingly, to guard against inconsistent prosecutorial decisions, you must also excuse yourself from those investigations."
Carr issued a statement after the press conference that confirmed his meeting with Marshall during which the attorney general "notified me that he believes there are several factors taht may exist which could possibly lead the public to believe a conflict may exist between the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office and the parties involved in the Thanksgiving Day Galleria shooting. However, as I stated to Attorney General Marshall, the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office stands ready and capable to proceed with this case based on the facts and evidence once provided, and the law as it currently exists."
"Despite the Attorney General's Office intervention in this instance, the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office will continue to seek and ensure justice for all citizens of this county. I trust that justice will prevail."
Carr said he would have no additional comment.
The shooting happened just before 10 p.m. Thanksgiving night on the second floor of the Riverchase Galleria. Hoover police said an argument between several young men led to gunfire. Wilson was wounded, as was bystander Molly Davis, who took a bullet to the back. Bradford was shot by a Hoover police officer, who was in uniform and on-duty as part of a beefed-up holiday shopping detail.
Bradford was pronounced dead on the scene. Eight other people were treated by paramedics for injuries sustained while fleeing the gunfire.
Within hours of the shooting, Hoover police said Bradford was the shooter. The following day, however, they retracted that statement.
According to authorities, 20-year-old Erron Brown, involved in the altercation with Bradford and Wilson, shot Wilson and fled the scene. Brown is charged with attempted murder in the shooting of Wilson.
The U.S. Marshals Service arrested Brown in Georgia on Nov. 29. Though his name had quickly surfaced as a suspect in the case, authorities withheld his identity while law enforcement officers searched for him.
Brown's attorney, Charles Salvagio, said all of the men involved knew each other. He said Brown is not guilty of any crime.
Multiple protests have been held over the Bradford case. The highest-profile demonstration took place Tuesday, Dec. 4, when they protested at several Hoover businesses and then got on Interstate 459 and ultimately stopped at the Interstate 65 interchange. They got out of their vehicles and locked arms while standing across the roadway.
Police blocked the Hoover entrances to I-459 during the protest. Dozens of lawmen, some riding on police SUV running boards, flocked to the scene and ultimately dispersed the crowd. Several large wreckers were brought in by the city and protesters were told if they did not move out of the roadway, their cars would be towed, and they would be arrested. No arrests were made that night, and the protesters contend that the police were the ones who shut down the interstate.
Since then, six protesters have been arrested. Four of those -- Carlos Chaverst Jr., Mark Myles, Sherrette Spicer and Andy Baer -- have been charged with disorderly conduct in connection with the I-459 shut down. Chaverst also has two other disorderly conduct charges and a loitering charge for wearing a mask to a protest at Renaissance Ross Bridge. A Vestavia Hills woman, Anne Susan Diprizio, is also charged with disorderly conduct for a lone protest she held on U.S. 31 Dec. 6.
Police say Diprizio was throwing Christmas ornaments into traffic, and tried to climb on the hood of a motorist's vehicle while stating she was "going to stop traffic until there was justice for EJ."
Martez Lamar Parker, 25, was arrested Wednesday night during a protest at Target at The Grove shopping center.
Previous protests have been held at the Galleria, Hoover City Hall, Sam's Club, the home of Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato, and Hoover's Public Safety Center. Chaverst's arrest took place at the latter, while a group of about 30 were protesting outside the city jail.
They are demanding that video of the deadly shooting be released and also want the officer who shot Bradford to face criminal charges.
(c)2018 Alabama Media Group, Birmingham