Upon hearing that the 16-year-old fellow Ohio native had been shot and killed by a white police officer on the same day that Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd, the Los Angeles Lakers frontman saw red. He tweeted out a picture of the Columbus Police Officer who shot the teenage girl, Nicholas Reardon, along with the caption, "YOU'RE NEXT."
Though he deleted the post – explaining he felt it was being "used to create more hate" – the hate from peers, celebrities and internet users alike did not let up.
However, in his letter, which he shared on Facebook, Officer Deon Joseph said he was "not going to come at [LeBron] from a place of hatred. There will be no name calling. I was raised to see the whole of a human being. Not to hyper focus on their flaws or make said flaws the whole of who they are. I'm an honest man."
After noting he was a longtime fan of the athlete and praised him for his charity work, Joseph took aim at James' "current stance on policing," which he described as "so off base and extreme."
"Your tweet that targeted a police officer in Ohio who saved a young woman's life was irresponsible and disturbing," wrote Joseph. "It showed a complete lack of understanding of the challenge of our job in the heat of a moment. You basically put a target on the back of a human being who had to make a split second decision to save a life from a deadly attack."
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Deon went on to call it "a decision I know he and many others wish they never had to make. Especially when it involves someone so young."
He also took issue with how the basketball player handled the backlash. A moment that could have been one of education and self-reflection, argued the cop, was instead used for deflection.
"You said you took your tweet down because you did not want it to be used for hate, when the tweet itself was the embodiment of hatred, rooted in a lack of understanding of the danger of the situation," said Joseph, before telling James his hope was to one day sit down and have a conversation with him: "No cameras. No fanfare. Just two men who care talking."
"I do feel I can help you understand the reality of the profession of policing, and that there is another side you need to hear," Deon wrote. "You are tired of Black folks dying? So am I. You hate racism and police brutality? So do I. But you cannot paint 800,000 men and women who are of all races, faiths, sexual orientations and are also mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, preachers, coaches, community members and just human with such a broad and destructive brush."
Joseph noted that he doesn't believe James to be like "some who have dug their heals in the belief that police are inherently evil," saying he thinks the NBA star could walk away from an honest conversation with Joseph or another police officer with the realization that they are "not the monsters you have come to believe we are, who deserve the hate and distain you have."
"It's clear based on rising crime in marginalized communities that cops and the community need to build bridges to save lives on all sides," admitted the cop, before adding, "That cannot be done through the demonization of any group of people."