LeBron James explained his decision late Wednesday to delete a tweet about the fatal police shooting of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant in Columbus, Ohio.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Los Angeles Lakers star tweeted a photo that appeared to show the officer who was involved in the shooting of Bryant with the caption: “YOU’RE NEXT #ACCOUNTABILITY.”
Backlash was swift, with Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., accusing the NBA champion of inciting violence against a police officer.
“This is disgraceful and dangerous,” he said. “Is the NBA okay with this? Is Twitter?”
The NBA has not issued a statement on the matter.
James, who has used his platform as one of the world’s most famous athletes to become a leading voice on social justice issues, said he took down his original post because it was “being used to create more hate.”
“This isn’t about one officer,” James said in a follow-up tweet. “It’s about the entire system and they always use our words to create more racism. I am so desperate for more ACCOUNTABILITY.”
“I’m so damn tired of seeing Black people killed by police,” he added.
Body-camera video released by Columbus police Wednesday showed the fatal encounter, which happened just before the country learned of the jury’s verdict against former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, who was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.
The body-worn camera of police Officer Nick Reardon recorded how he arrived at a reported disturbance late Tuesday afternoon. Reardon drew his weapon as the altercation unfolded, the video showed. Police have said the video shows someone trying to stab a person on the ground, as well as a second person.
A person wearing a black T-shirt is seen with an object in her right hand that she raises toward a second person before Reardon opened fire. The girl whom police shot and killed was identified as Bryant.
Police picked up what appeared to be a knife near the girl’s body, and an officer could be heard on camera saying: “She had a knife. She just went at her.”
Interim Police Chief Michael Woods told reporters Wednesday: “It’s a tragedy. There’s no other way to say it. It’s a 16-year-old girl.”
The case is being handled by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and Columbus authorities said they would be limited in their comments. But Woods said department policy allows officers to shoot if it is believed that someone’s life is in danger.
“I cannot respond specifically to this specific incident,” Woods said. “But what I can say is that when officers are faced with someone employing deadly force, deadly force can be the response the officer gives.”
Don Bryant, a cousin of Bryant’s mother, said police had other options.
“I know there are de-escalation tactics that could have been used. You killed a teenage girl. That could have been avoided,” he said.
James, who won his fourth NBA championship last season, is a native of Akron, Ohio, a city about 130 miles northeast of Columbus.
In another follow-up tweet explaining his decision to delete his original post, James suggested he may have let his emotions get the better of him.
“ANGER does (not do) any of us any good and that includes myself! Gathering all the facts and educating does though!” he said. “My anger still is here for what happened that lil girl. My sympathy for her family and may justice prevail!”
David K. Li and Minyvonne Burke contributed.