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A Mall Shooting, a Black Man’s Death, and a Debate Over Race and Gun Rights



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HOOVER, Ala. — After gunshots rang out in a cavernous suburban shopping mall on Thanksgiving night, Ashlyn McMillan encountered a man she considered a hero. He directed frantic shoppers to safety, hand on his gun to defend against a looming threat. “Get down,” Ms. McMillan recalled him saying. “Go in the store.”

Yet to a police officer who raced to the scene in Hoover, Ala., the black man with the gun was not a hero in action, but “a suspect brandishing a pistol,” according to a police account. The officer fired at him, and the man, Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., died.

As it turned out, Mr. Bradford was not the gunman the police had been searching for. On Thursday, police arrested someone else — Erron Martez Dequan Brown, 20, and charged him with attempting to murder an 18-year-old man who was shot during the melee.

The correction was too late for Mr. Bradford, whom the police initially identified as the culprit, only to change their story a day later. Mr. Bradford had not shot anyone, the Hoover police said, but was a licensed gun owner at a chaotic scene in the crowded mall.

to black people, having grown out of the white flight of decades past.

Much remains unclear about what led to Mr. Bradford’s death on the opening evening of the holiday shopping season at the Riverchase Galleria, the state’s largest indoor mall. Witnesses have said they did not see Mr. Bradford pointing his gun at people or hear the police shouting commands before shooting him.

Those details will be important as investigators determine whether the shooting was legally justified. In chaotic situations, officers can have just a split second to make life-or-death decisions, and the presence of firearms only complicates things, experts say. In fact, Hoover officials said in a news release that Mr. Bradford’s decision to pull his gun “instantly heightened the sense of threat to approaching police officers.”

Under intense public scrutiny, the city has since gone to great lengths publicly and privately to atone for the killing of Mr. Bradford, who received a general discharge from the Army in August after sustaining an injury during basic training, his mother said.

Officials met with Mr. Bradford’s family to offer their condolences, and they postponed a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, urging people to pray for the family instead. They also made the unusual step of asking the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, which has taken control of the investigation, to permit them to release all the information, including video footage, that they had on the case so far.

If the agency did not approve the request by noon on Monday, the police chief would consider releasing the information anyway, said Derrick Murphy, the only black Hoover city councilman.

“Praying is the least we can do for the Bradford family,” Mr. Murphy said during a news conference on Thursday morning that ended with a prayer. “I know time is important.”

Mr. Bradford went to the Galleria often and he was there last Thursday night to shop and, like many young people in the area, hang out with friends.

Ms. McMillan, an 18-year-old college student from Tuscaloosa, was there waiting for a friend in front of Foot Action on the second level when she saw several young men arguing outside of the store and then heard a gunshot.

John C. Robbins, a lawyer for Brian Wilson, the 18-year-old who was injured during the incident, said his client had been arguing with Mr. Brown, who was arrested by federal marshals on Thursday at a relative’s house in South Fulton, Ga. The lawyer said that Mr. Bradford was not involved.

Protesters marched for Mr. Bradford on Saturday outside the mall.CreditKim Chandler/Associated Press

The first gunshot, Mr. Robbins said, hit Mr. Wilson in the stomach. A 12-year-old girl was also shot at the mall that night, but it remains unclear who was responsible.

Ms. McMillan, the witness, recalled seeing Mr. Bradford urging people to take cover. She saw his hand on his holstered gun at one point, she said, but was unsure if he ever actually took it out.

About a minute after the initial gunshots, Ms. McMillan said another barrage came without warning; she did not hear any police commands. Mr. Bradford, she said, fell to the floor from the bullets.

“Just like in a movie, it was like everything slowed down,” Ms. McMillan said. “You just saw his body just hit the ground so hard, his head bounced. It was just horrific.”

While he strongly supports black people protecting themselves with firearms when they are in danger, Philip Smith, the president of the National African-American Gun Association, said it was also important for black gun owners to take extra precautions, which might mean walking away from a situation without drawing a weapon.

“When you walk up to a situation as an officer, I think a lot of times there’s an assumption that the black guy is the issue or the problem,” Mr. Smith said. “When you have those stereotypes that are ingrained in your mind, it can be a death warrant for a lot of our black men, unfortunately.”

The city has not released any information about the officer who shot Mr. Bradford and it did not respond to repeated inquiries. The state agency investigating the case declined to comment.

Hoover has a population of 85,000. Though the city is diversifying, civil rights leaders have criticized structural barriers — from zoning ordinances to the school district breaking away from the county — that they say have kept the suburban enclave 72 percent white.

It is one of the suburbs that black people in the metropolitan area tell other black people to avoid, or, if they must go, to drive carefully and be on their best behavior to avoid the intense scrutiny of local law enforcement.

The city’s reputation never stopped Mr. Bradford from going there, much to his mother’s concern. His killing, Ms. Pipkins said, was a culmination of that concern.

“If you look at that situation,” she said, “we know we’re not really welcome here.”


  1. ^ police fatally shot a black security guard (
  2. ^ fatally shot a black Navy veteran (
  3. ^ was shot and wounded (
  4. ^ unwelcoming (

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Houston Recalls Legacy of George Bush, Its Lone Star Yankee and Senior Booster



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HOUSTON — Inside the airport that bears his name, George Herbert Walker Bush looks, at a distance, as if he’s wearing a cape.

An 8-foot-tall bronze statue at the Houston airport shows Mr. Bush, who , Barbara Bush[4], who died in April at the age of 92. After Mr. Bush’s death on Friday, Houston lost its two most famous residents in the span of seven months.

“George H.W. Bush served with valor and integrity as the 41st president of the United States,” Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, said in a statement. “But to Houstonians he was one of our most esteemed and relatable neighbors. He and his wife, Barbara Bush, were our sports teams’ biggest fans, and boosters for everything Houston.”

This was the man whose most memorable quote in years had to do with men’s hosiery. In 2012, as his fondness for wearing bright eye-catching socks was going strong, he explained that he simply “likes a good sock.” At his wife’s funeral at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Mr. Bush wore a pair of socks with a colorful stack-of-books design, a tribute to Mrs. Bush’s advocacy work for family literacy.

In Houston and its surrounding suburbs, Mr. Bush had not only an airport in his name but a park, a high school and a few more life-size statues. Above Buffalo Bayou, a bronze statue of Mr. Bush looks out into the distance with his hand in his pocket, gazing at, of all things, James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state and Mr. Bush’s tennis partner at the Houston Country Club. The statues of the two close friends face each other in the downtown park, separated by about 100 yards, in Houston’s oddest and longest-running staring contest.

“All I can do now,” Mr. Bush told The New York Times in 2011 about the statue, “is hope that the pigeons will be kind and gentle.”

Charles C. Foster, a Houston immigration lawyer and a longtime friend of the Bush family, came up with the idea for the George H.W. Bush Monument, which was unveiled in 2004. Mr. Foster recalled the day he sat in Mr. Bush’s office at 10000 Memorial Drive and asked for his blessing for the project.

Mr. Bush in 1970, when he was a congressman.CreditAssociated Press

“He looked at me and he sort of looked up at the ceiling,” Mr. Foster said. “He pointed to the ceiling and said, ‘Shouldn’t you wait until I’m up there?’ And then he said, pointing downward, ‘Or perhaps down there?’”

In 1990, Mr. Bush helped turn the eyes of the world to Houston.

As president, he brought thousands of reporters and foreign dignitaries to Houston that summer for the Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations, an annual gathering of the world’s economic powers. The summits had been held in a number of global cities — London, Tokyo, Paris, Venice — and Mr. Bush made the case that his adopted hometown belonged among such world-class company.

Houston was scrappier back then. The city was rebounding from an oil bust in the 1980s that crippled the economy, and it tried hard to present its best, and cleanest, face to the cameras and the visitors, picking up millions of pounds of trash, repaving roads and enlisting the aid of 12,000 volunteers.

“That was huge for Houston,” Mr. Foster said of the 1990 summit. “When the president had a chance, he could have picked some mountain retreat. But he picked his hometown. He was well aware of the chip on our shoulders that we didn’t feel like Houston got the recognition that it should.”

Now, with 2.3 million residents (compared with 1.6 million in 1990), Houston is the fourth-largest city in America, known as much for its diversity as its energy-capital status. George Bush High School, part of the Fort Bend school district, is 43 percent Hispanic, 38 percent black, 12 percent Asian and 4 percent white. More than 90 languages and dialects are spoken in the district.

Early Saturday morning in the upscale Tanglewood area, Houstonians paused at the gates at South Post Oak Lane and North West Oak Drive — the entrance to the gated community where Mr. Bush lived. Someone draped an American flag in the center of the gates, decorated for the holidays with Christmas wreaths.

Shirley Matthews, 66, a lifelong Houstonian who lives nearby, walked up and took a picture of the memorial for her mother. “He was just a good person,” she said. “He wasn’t perfect. But it’s family, and we love each other.”


  1. ^ died at his home here on Friday (
  2. ^ Read the obituary of George H.W. Bush. (
  3. ^ the funeral for his wife (
  4. ^ Barbara Bush (

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A Close Race, a Mysterious Ballot and Control of Alaska’s House at Stake



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With a crucial legislative seat in Alaska teetering toward a tie earlier this month, lawmakers in Juneau braced for the possibility of a coin toss deciding control of the state’s House of Representatives. Then a mysterious extra ballot emerged that threw the process into further disarray.

Amid several counts, the latest coming on Friday afternoon, a single ballot drew scrutiny across the state.

The state’s review board certified the race, between Kathryn Dodge, a Democrat, and Bart LeBon, a Republican, as a tie earlier this week, with exactly 2,661 votes going to each candidate. The extra ballot, for Ms. Dodge, could have settled the race for the Fairbanks-area district seat.

Later on Friday, the mystery appeared to have been solved — but the standoff over who won the election continued.

Samantha Miller, a spokeswoman for the state elections office, said that workers at Fairbanks’s No. 6 precinct told officials that a woman had come into the polling place to request a special needs ballot on behalf of her husband, who was outside in a vehicle.

The woman came back into the precinct. Her husband had made a mistake, she told the precinct worker, and needed a new ballot. She left behind the one he had already marked, thus making it a spoiled ballot.

The precinct chair told the worker who took the spoiled ballot to put it into a secrecy sleeve, “and that they would deal with it later in the day,” Ms. Miller said.

But instead, the spoiled ballot was put into a compartment with other questioned ballots.

Typically, Ms. Miller said, spoiled ballots are destroyed once they are accounted for. So, because the mystery ballot was found to be spoiled, it will not be counted, she said.

Still, that left the question of what happens if the recount that began on Friday afternoon ends in a tie — again.

Ms. Miller said that both candidates had five days to file a legal challenge to the results. And if the court decided the recount went as it should have, and the race was still a tie?

The prevailing candidate would be determined “by lot,” Ms. Miller said. “It could be a coin toss or some other way of deciding, as long as it’s random.”

It would not be the first time an Alaska race was determined by coin toss.

In 2006, State Representative Bryce Edgmon[1], a Democrat from Dillingham, beat the incumbent, Carl Moses. Mr. Moses’s name was drawn, so he got to make the call: Heads.

The state’s elections director at the time flipped an Alaska Mint medallion — the side with a walrus being heads and the side with the state seal being tails. It landed state seal side up.

Ms. Miller would not speculate about when the recount would be complete, but said both candidates were present, along with observers and officials.

Mr. LeBon did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

Sara Harriger, a spokeswoman for Ms. Dodge, said in a statement that during Friday’s recount, one additional vote was found for Ms. Dodge and a challenged ballot was allowed for her opponent, Mr. LeBon, which meant that the tally stood at 2,662 apiece. Still tied.

Ms. Dodge said in a statement that she believed every legally cast ballot should be counted. “I just want everyone watching this process to take away a sense of confidence in our democratic system and a commitment to cast their votes in future races,” she said, “and knowing that their votes will matter.”

Ms. Dodge had said earlier on Friday that legal action “unfortunately” seemed probable.

“It’s certainly not what any of us expect when we set out to campaign, to find ourselves in a squeaker of this nature,” she said. “I hope we don’t have a coin toss. I don’t know quite what to say, but it doesn’t feel like it’s an appropriate way to settle an election.”

In Alaska, the repercussions of this race will be felt into the next legislative session, though party control of the House in Juneau will be far from clear-cut.

Political coalitions in Juneau do not always come down to party-line votes like in other state houses. Even if Ms. Dodge wins the race, Democrats would still not have an outright majority, and so members of the House will still be tasked with negotiating a coalition majority.


  1. ^ Bryce Edgmon (

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3 Killed After Pickup Truck Fleeing Border Patrol Hits Tire Spikes and Crashes



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Three people in a packed pickup truck were killed on Thursday afternoon after the driver ran over tire spikes and crashed on a Southern California highway while trying to flee Border Patrol officers, the authorities said.

The officers turned on their vehicle’s emergency lights and began chasing the pickup truck on Interstate 8, near Boulevard, Calif., at around 4:20 p.m., according to the United States Customs and Border Protection. The authorities said they believed that the pickup truck had been illegally driven over the southern border and had crashed through an “iron bar vehicle barrier.” They said they identified it by matching a piece that was missing from the truck to one agents had spotted on the ground near the border, though they did not elaborate.

The pickup truck reached speeds of over 100 miles per hour, weaving between cars and bypassing others on the side of the highway, before it drove over spikes that the Border Patrol had placed on the road, the California Highway Patrol said. About a mile later, the truck spun out of control and flipped over, ejecting the nine people who were riding in the truck’s bed, the authorities said.

A woman inside the truck, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was killed, as were two people riding in the bed, the police said. Seven people who had “multiple serious injuries” were taken to the hospital, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection said.

The driver, a United States citizen whose name was not released, was the only person wearing a seatbelt, the agency said. The California Highway Patrol took the man into custody, but it was not clear whether he had been charged. The identities of the passengers in the truck have not been released either.

“The investigation into the smuggling incident is ongoing,” the spokesman said in an email, “and the Border Patrol is fully cooperating with the CHP in their investigation of the collision.”

About an hour after the crash, the Border Patrol stopped another vehicle that officers believed had crossed over the border with the pickup truck, the agency said. The driver of that car was also arrested.

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