We’ve all heard about the tragedy last Thanksgiving evening at the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover. Here’s what little we know at this point - an 18-year-old and 12-year-old were seriously injured by gunfire and 21-year-old Emantic Bradford Jr, 21, of Hueytown was killed by Hoover police who, at the time, suspected him of shooting the other two. Later investigation concluded that he was not the shooter. But most of the details of this event are unknown to the public despite what some are saying. We don’t know who the actual shooter was; we don’t know the identity of the two gunshot victims; we don’t know the identity of the Hoover policeman involved; we don’t know what security or body cam video shows; we just simply don’t know exactly what happened.
As in so many of these horrific incidents, there are those who wish to politicize it and use it for their personal or group agenda. People are quickly taking sides, dealing in speculation, making assumptions based on preconceived notions of what “they” are like, defending actions of someone without any hard facts. What seems lost in so many conversations that I’m hearing is the fact that a young man’s life has been lost, a family has lost a son, a police officer is wrestling with the trauma of having fatally shot a man, and this officer’s family is likely going to face a lot of turmoil in the coming months and years. While it’s easy to pick sides and justify whatever actions fit your particular favored agenda, it’s somehow hard to remember that these are real people with real lives and real families. We prefer to use them to promote our views rather than grieve with them in their pain, hurt, and loss.
And what are our views on this matter? What “side” are we on? Are we quick to condemn Emantic Bradford because he shouldn’t have been there with a gun in the first place? Are we ready to condemn the policeman because he apparently shot the wrong person? Are we prone to assume that young black men gathered at an athletic shoe store is a sure-fire recipe for trouble? Are we to assume that police officers simply racially profile before taking action? Are we immediately critical of those protesting this incident down in the Galleria area?
While there is certainly corruption in our system, the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers are brave, responsible, just, moral, trustworthy people who serve us faithfully by putting their very lives on the line every day. They are to be commended, trusted, admired, and respected. And while there are definitely a number of young men who cause trouble (white, black, Asian, Hispanic), the overwhelming majority of them are responsible and pose no threat. It also can’t be denied that the white majority culture has a history of injustice and distrust directed toward people of color. We all know law enforcement officers who are among the finest people in the land, and we may know some who aren’t. We likely also know people of color who have suffered injustice, rejection, and live under constant suspicion.
Does any of this factor in to the Galleria shooting? I have no idea … and I’m not sure anyone else does at this point. But I fear that we too quick to judge, too eager to defend our group, willing to politicize most anything, and do all this without hard evidence or facts. What we know is that a life bearing God’s image has been lost, two families are hurting, unfounded accusations are being made, a community is becoming more divided, and the Lord’s heart is grieved by it all.
So what are we to do as God’s people? Again, I’m not wise enough to offer great solutions to such a complex matter. But I do believe that that the Gospel speaks to the situation. Conversations need to take place, humility must characterize these conversations, forgiveness needs to be extended, justice needs to be relentlessly pursued, mercy is to be practiced, and the glory of Jesus must be pre-eminent; as God has loved us in Christ, so must we love one another.
Micah 6:8 is a good reminder: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Join me in praying for the families involved, for the community to be healed, for wisdom and discernment for investigators and authorities, for police officers to be respected, for justice to be served, for the church to take the lead in community-wide reconciliation, and for Christ to be glorified in the midst of it all.