(CNN) - April Pipkins is still at a loss for words over the events that led up to her son's fatal shooting Thanksgiving night -- and as outrage grows, she wants people to know that Emantic Bradford Jr. was a loving man.
The 21-year-old was killed by a police officer in a case of mistaken identity during a shooting at Alabama's largest enclosed mall Thursday night.
Officers initially thought Bradford fired the rounds at the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover that left an 18-year-old and a 12-year-old hospitalized, Hoover police spokesman Capt. Gregg Rector said in a statement.
"I will never be able to see my son's face again or to look into his eyes or to hear him say, 'Mom, I love you,'" Pipkins said of her son, adding that he may not be able to have an open-casket funeral because he was shot in the face.
"I am just at a loss of words right now," she said.
Family members said in a statement that Bradford, known as "EJ," was "a devoted son and brother, who dedicated his life to serving his country and always doing the right thing."
"My son was a loving -- very loving -- young man. He would give any of you the shirt off his back," his mother told reporters Sunday. "He loved people, period. He was not a killer."
He was trying to help people, family lawyer says
Bradford had no criminal record, said civil rights attorney Ben Crump who the family hired. Crump said Bradford was actually trying to help victims to safety when he was shot. After the shooting, police provided the young man with no medical assistance, the attorney said.
Bradford was also the caretaker for his father, who is battling cancer, worked full time and helped his mother financially. He had a concealed weapon permit for the gun he was carrying that day, Crump said.
Many protesters Sunday referred to Bradford's military service. But while Bradford noted on his Facebook page that he was a US Army combat engineer, he never completed advanced individual training and did not serve, said Lt. Col. Manny Ortiz, an Army spokesman.
The mall shooter has not been identified, nor has the officer who killed Bradford. The Hoover police officer, who was working mall security when he shot Bradford, is on administrative leave during an investigation, police previously said.
"We all want answers and we believe that with patience and focus, the truth will be firmly established," the police statement said.
The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.