In the wake of the ambush shooting of two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies over the weekend, the FBI, U.S. Marshals and more than a dozen detectives are working to identify the gunman. So far a $175,000 reward has been raised for any information leading to the shooter’s arrest, but yesterday LA Sheriff Alex Villanueva challenged LeBron James to double that reward money.
In an interview with KABC Radio, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the reward money has reached $175,000, after two individuals donated $75,000 to add to the $100,000 offered by the county.
“This challenge is to Lebron James. I want you to match that and double that reward,” Villanueva said. “I know you care about law enforcement. You expressed a very interesting statement about your perspective on race relations and on officer-involved shootings and the impact that it has on the African-American community. And I appreciated that. But likewise, we need to appreciate that respect for life goes across professions, across races, creeds, and I’d like to see LeBron James step up to the plate and double that.”…
In an interview with the AP, Villanueva said the angry rhetoric is making deputies’ work more difficult.
“They’re out there doing their job and yet we have people fanning the flames of hatred and just turning up the volume when we don’t need it. We need to be turning it down,” Villanueva said. “Particularly our elected officials and civic leaders and sports figures, they need to start emphasizing trust in the system, due process.”
James has made himself the face of Black Lives Matter in professional basketball. Last month the playoffs were delayed after James and other players walked out. Sheriff Villanueva’s challenege to James was issued yesterday and as of this morning LeBron hasn’t responded. Last night he did retweet this BLM video (which he narrates) encouraging people to vote:
"We need you join us and vote like our lives depend on it. Because they do." – @kingjames #VOMO @abcnetwork @whenweallvote @morethanavote pic.twitter.com/aRPhNQMp0F
— attn (@attn) September 15, 2020
While LeBron hasn’t responded yet, Vanessa Bryant, widow of Kobe Bryant did respond. She is currently suing Villanueva’s office over leaked photos of the crash scene where her husband and daughter died. Here’s one of the tweets that Bryant shared:
How can he talk about trusting the system? His sheriff’s dept. couldn’t be trusted to secure Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash scene, his deputies took and shared graphic photos of crash victims. Vanessa Bryant is suing them. https://t.co/X48h2h4MNv
— Elan (@ElanMaree) September 15, 2020
Fox News has more on what Bryant posted on her Instagram account:
Next, Bryant shared a May headline and article from The Hollywood Reporter, showing that the union for deputies of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was suing Villanueva to keep the internal affairs investigation into the distribution of the photos private.
“No fewer than eight sheriff’s deputies were at the scene snapping cell-phone photos of the dead children, parents, and coaches,” the claim reads, per People magazine. “As the department would later admit, there was no investigative purpose for deputies to take pictures at the crash site. Rather, the deputies took photos for their own personal purposes.”
I didn’t think there was much change LeBron would agree to support the reward fund when I heard about the Sheriff’s challenge last night. But now that Vanessa Bryant is attacking the sheriff I don’t think there’s any way he’ll do it now. And that’s too bad.
After the shooting we had a small group of people caught celebrating and some even went to the hospital and said they hoped the deputies died. It would send a good signal if someone with LeBron’s celebrity would separate himself from that kind of intense hatred by showing concern for the lives of those deputies. It would communicate that BLM wants change but doesn’t support violence of the kind we saw last weekend. And frankly, I think a lot more people would be willing to listen to what LeBron has to say about the subject if they knew he didn’t simply hate the police. It really could be a good thing for the city and maybe even for the country to take a step toward the center.
I’m sure a lot of people are going to argue that it’s not fair to put LeBron in this position, but BLM supporters frequently argues that “white silence equals violence,” i.e. you’re either vocal about the black men shot by police or you condone it. I don’t think people making that argument can say it’s unfair to treat LeBron’s silence about the shooting of two deputies in the same way.