LeBron James has deleted a tweet calling out the Columbus police officer who fatally shot Black teen Ma’Khia Bryant, after the basketball superstar faced accusations of promoting violence on social media.
“YOU’RE NEXT,” James wrote in the original tweet, which featured an image of a police officer from video shot in Columbus, Ohio. It was not immediately clear if the officer in the photo was actually the one who shot Bryant. “#ACCOUNTABILITY,” James added.
The tweet appeared to be a nod to the murder conviction against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd by kneeling on his neck last year. Chauvin was found guilty on Tuesday afternoon, less than an hour after Bryant was killed in James’ home state.
Bryant, 16, was fatally shot by an officer responding to a call about a disturbance, Columbus police said. Bodycam footage released by police shows the officer firing several shots at Bryant as she charged at another person with a knife. She later died in hospital.
Police have since identified the officer as Nicholas Reardon.
James’ original tweet about the officer went up on Wednesday afternoon, triggering a flurry of outrage and accusations that he was promoting violence.
James removed the tweet late Wednesday and acknowledged that his anger got the better of him when he wrote it. He also stood by his call for accountability after the incident.
“ANGER (does not) do us any good and that includes myself!” he wrote in a follow-up tweet. “Gathering all the facts and educating does though! My anger still is there for what happened (to) that lil girl. My sympathy for her family and may justice prevail!”
“I’m so damn tired of seeing Black people killed by police. I took the tweet down because it’s being used to create more hate,” he wrote in another tweet. “This isn’t about one officer. It’s about the entire system and they always use our words to create more racism. I am so desperate for more ACCOUNTABILITY.”
James was one of many who saw Bryant’s death as part of a larger trend of police shooting and killing Black people across the United States — an issue that was already at the forefront of people’s minds as they awaited the Chauvin verdict on Tuesday.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the Columbus shooting “tragic” and said U.S. President Joe Biden has been briefed on it.
“She was a child. We’re thinking of her friends and family and the communities that are hurting and grieving her loss,” Psaki said in a statement.
“It’s a tragedy,” Interim Columbus Police Chief Michael Woods told reporters on Wednesday. “There’s no other way to say it. It’s a 16-year-old girl.”
He added that officers are allowed to shoot if they believe someone’s life is in danger, but he declined to comment specifically on the situation involving Bryant.
“What I can say is that when officers are faced with someone employing deadly force, deadly force can be the response the officer gives,” he said.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine described the incident as a “horrible tragedy,” adding: “We need to let the investigation play out.” He also pointed out that the state is moving forward with legislation to boost police accountability.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is handling the case, amid intense scrutiny around police brutality across the U.S.
—With files from The Associated Press
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