24-year-old man charged in Independence Center Mall shooting - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

24-year-old man charged in Independence Center Mall shooting

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INDEPENDENCE, MO (KCTV) -

A 24-year-old Kansas City man stands accused of shooting two teenagers inside the Independence Center Mall.

Eric Bratton was arraigned Wednesday on one count of first-degree assault, one count of second-degree assault and two counts of armed criminal action.

Jackson County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Bushur set a $500,000 cash only bond. Prosecutors had sought a $250,000 bond.

Bushur also ordered Bratton to stay outside of Independence if he makes bond.

When asked by KCTV5's Sandra Olivas what happened inside the Independence Center Mall on Saturday, Bratton declined comment.

Bratton's mother and tearful sister attended the arraignment and Bratton looked at them as he was led in and out of the courtroom. His mother said she saw the news reports about Saturday's shooting and never expected her son, who has a 2-year-old daughter, would be accused of firing off the shots.

"He has never been in this kind of trouble before," his mother told KCTV5.

A 17-year-old boy was shot in the right thigh. He was released from an area hospital Tuesday morning. His 17-year-old girlfriend was shot in the right foot and has also been released from the hospital.

Both were shot with a .45-caliber handgun.

The boy's grandmother said the family is relieved that a suspect is in custody.

"I was afraid that he would come here and look for the boys," the boy's grandmother said. "I didn't want that to happen."

Her grandson and his girlfriend were going into the mall about 4:30 p.m. Saturday when they said Bratton made comments about the girl's derriere, according to court documents. The boy said this prompted a verbal exchange.

The girl said Bratton and his friend made rude comments about the couple. She said when her boyfriend questioned them, Bratton replied, "You heard me white boy! You don't mess with me!"

The squabbling continued as they entered the Sears store, both victims told police.

"He (the boy) stated that they entered the mall when he was struck in the back of the head by the black male with the dreadlocks, which prompted a physical altercation between them," according to a probable cause statement filed by detectives. "He advised that the second black male subject pulled him off the black male with the dreadlocks and the fight appeared to end."

But Bratton continued to follow the couple as they made their way to the lower level of the mall outside the Sears and Forever 21 store, according to court documents. The boy said Bratton then threatened to shoot him in the leg and head.

The boy turned around and saw Bratton pull a handgun from his waistband and fire three shots.

"He stated that the black male with the dreadlocks shot him in the leg and then attempted to shoot him in the head but narrowly missed," according to the probable cause statement. "He advised that he, immediately after the shooting, grabbed (his girlfriend) and ran into the Forever 21 store for safety."

The boy didn't immediately realize he had been shot, focusing on his girlfriend's injury.

The girl and a friend of theirs confirmed the boyfriend's account, saying Bratton threatened to kill them, according to court documents.

The shots rang out just after 4:30 p.m. Saturday, leading to chaos inside the packed mall. Shoppers described fleeing to other stores or their cars. Store employees slammed gates and blocking access to stores. The mall was placed on lockdown for a time.

A mall customer captured the confrontation and shooting on his cell phone, according to court documents. Pictures from the video and surveillance video were released to the media and numerous tips poured in identifying Bratton and his friend.

The second person was questioned Tuesday and later released from jail. No charges were filed against Bratton's friend by the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office.

During his brief court appearance Wednesday morning, Bratton told the judge that he lives with his mother in Kansas City. He initially said he wanted to hire his own attorney but Bushur questioned whether he could afford one.

"I need a lawyer," Bratton then replied.

His mother said her son has never been charged before with a felony. She said to her knowledge her son has only faced traffic tickets before Wednesday.

"He didn't need to get in this kind of trouble," she said.

She said she didn't know what sparked the argument inside the mall.

Bratton just turned 24 years old on Jan. 3. His mother had hoped to get him out of jail, saying she didn't want him staying locked up.

This was before such a large bond amount was set. Now she's just trying to soldier ahead.

"I'm just thinking positive thoughts," she said.

Bratton's next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 1 at 1:30 p.m.

Bushur initially told Bratton to stay away from Independence Center Mall if he makes bond but expanded it to all of Independence once he learned that Bratton lives in Kansas City with his mother.

For the grandmother of the boy shot she will be glad when the court case is concluded.

"It's a crazy world we live in," she said.

Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp). All rights reserved.

According to court records, the victim stated that he and Bratton exchanged words after Bratton made a comment about the female victims' buttocks. This led to a physical altercation between the two men. After the altercation was broken up, Bratton followed the victims threatening to shoot them. Bratton eventually fired shots striking one victim in the leg and the other in the foot.

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