Louisville police get unexpected support
Sports | Basketball greats say Breonna Taylor’s death differs from other cases
by Marty VanDriel
Posted 9/29/20, 04:37 pm
When Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced a grand jury had approved wanton endangerment charges against one Louisville police officer in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, he expected blowback. Some protesters had demanded the arrest of three officers on murder charges.
Cameron, who is black, spoke empathetically while explaining how the grand jury reached its decision last week, calling the case “gut-wrenching” and a “tragedy.” He then predicted, “There will be celebrities, influencers, and activists who, having never lived in Kentucky, will try to tell us how to feel, suggesting they understand the facts of this case and they know our community and the commonwealth better than we do. But they don’t. Let’s not give in to their attempts to influence our thinking or capture our emotions.”
Many activists and celebrities went ahead and railed against the decision, calling it yet another symptom of systemic racism in America. “We want justice, no matter how long it takes, even though it’s been so many days,” Los Angeles Lakers player Lebron James said. “There’s just so much injustice going on.”
A few celebrities, however, challenged the attorney general’s expectations by publicly backing him. In the pregame show before an NBA contest on the cable channel TNT, retired players Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal supported the grand jury’s decision. “You know, we have to take into account that her boyfriend did shoot at the cops,” Barkley said. He was referring to Kenneth Walker, who was in the apartment with Taylor and fired his legally owned handgun as police entered the apartment on March 13. Walker said he did not know they were police officers and shot in self-defense.
“Even though I’m really sorry she lost her life, I don’t think we can put this in the same situation as George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery,” Barkley continued. Floyd died in late May in Minneapolis after a police officer knelt on his neck while trying to arrest him. A father and son who claimed to be investigating a recent burglary shot and killed Arbery in February in a subdivision outside Brunswick, Ga. Both men who died were African American.
O’Neal, who has a history of supporting police departments, including accepting promotional deputy sheriff positions in several locations, echoed Barkley: “I have to agree with Charles. This one is sort of lumped in. … When you talk about murder, you have to show intent. A homicide occurred, and we’re sorry a homicide occurred. When you have a warrant signed by the judge, you are doing your job, and I would imagine that you would fire back.”
Barkley further stated he did not support calls to defund the police: “I’m like, wait a minute. Who are black people supposed to call? Ghostbusters, when we have crime in our neighborhoods? We need police reform.”
Barkley and O’Neal faced a barrage of criticism for their opinions and have kept silent on the issue publicly since then.
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Marty is a TV and film critic for WORLD. He is a graduate of World Journalism Institute and CEO of a custom truck and trailer building company. He and his wife, Faith, reside in Lynden, Wash., near children and grandchildren.