NBA superstar LeBron James spoke out about the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, saying it shows why Black people are “terrified” of the police.
James also said in a post-game interview Monday night that he believes firearms are "a huge issue in America," because they are not only used for sport. "For Black people right now, we think you’re hunting us,” he said.
The Los Angeles Lakers player, who spoke from the NBA’s Disney World bubble in Florida after his team beat the Portland Trail Brazers 135-115, said he was deeply disturbed by video showing police shooting Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, in the back multiple times on Sunday.
The shooting, which has sparked protests in Kenosha and other cities, has left Blake paralyzed from the waist down, his father said Tuesday morning. The father said doctors do not know if the paralysis will be permanent.
Kenosha police have released few details beyond saying that officers were responding to a domestic incident at 5:11 p.m. on Sunday and "were involved in an officer-involved shooting."
Police referred requests for comment to the Wisconsin Department of Justice, which is conducting a probe of the incident.
"The Wisconsin Department of Justice is vigorously and thoroughly investigating yesterday's officer-involved shooting in Kenosha. As with all investigations we conduct, we will unwaveringly pursue justice in this case," state Attorney General Josh Kaul said in a statement Monday.
The Kenosha County District Attorney's Office will decide whether to file charges, as is customary, Kaul's statement said, adding that the police officers involved were placed on administrative leave.
James said a bystander's video of the shooting that was posted on social media shows why “we are scared as Black people in America. Black men, Black women, Black kids, we are terrified.”
“If you’re sitting here telling me that there was no way to subdue that gentleman or detain him before the firing of guns, then you’re sitting here lying not only to me, but you’re lying to every African American, every Black person in the community,” he said.
“Why does it always have to get to a point where we see the guns firing?” James said, adding how upsetting it was as a father to know that Blake’s children were at the scene during the shooting.
“His family is there; his kids are there; it’s broad daylight,” he said. “My prayers go out to that family and that community, but I’ve got nothing nice to say about those cops at all.”
James also said he knows from his own childhood the experience of being afraid of police.
“When I lived in the projects, when I seen a cop going, we hid behind a brick wall and waited for it to roll out. If we saw the cop’s lights go on, we ran, even if we didn’t do nothing wrong. We were just scared,” he said.
He also said guns are a big problem that contribute to Black people's fears of getting shot.
“I think firearms are a huge issue in America….They’re not used just for hunting that a lot of people use for sport. For Black people right now, we think you’re hunting us,” he said.
The mayor of Kenosha, a city of about 100,000 midway between Chicago and Milwaukee, said Monday that there was no body camera video of the incident with Blake and that he wasn't sure whether a dash camera recorded it.
The bystander who recorded the video posted on social media, Raysean White, 22, said the incident first caught his attention when he heard a group of women arguing across the street from his apartment.
"Then the guy that got shot showed up," White said in an interview. "He pulled up in his truck, got out his truck, seen him walk up. His son was running towards him. He was picking up his son. He told his son to get in the gray truck, we about to go."
Minutes later, White said, he looked out his window again to see "police out there wrestling" with the man, who was later identified as Blake, behind the vehicle.White said he saw a female officer fire the stun gun at Blake. White said he then started to record the incident, some of which is obscured by the vehicle. It is unclear what exactly happened before the video starts.
"They were also yelling, 'Drop the knife,'" White said. "I didn't see any weapons in his hands. He wasn't being violent."
The video shows Blake walking in front of the vehicle to try to get into the driver's seat. It is at this point that shots are fired.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said Monday that he had seen no information to suggest that Blake had a knife or other weapon, but that “this is undergoing a thorough investigation" by the state Justice Department, according to The Associated Press.
The police shooting of Blake occurred three months after George Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody, which sparked protests around the country and across the world.