After a Columbus police officer fatally shot a 16-year-old Black girl named Ma’Khia Bryant in April 2021, social media was filled with reactions to her death. Some posts framed the officer’s actions as yet another senseless killing by law enforcement, while other accounts considered the cop a hero for arriving to a chaotic scene and making the split-second decision to shoot the teenager.
Among the latter group was Candace Owens, a conservative pundit. In a roughly 11-minute Instagram Live video, she attempted to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Black Lives Matter movement and supporters’ sympathy towards Bryant by calling attention to the Twitter activity of LeBron James.
She claimed James, of the Los Angeles Lakers who hails from hails from Akron, Ohio (about 130 miles northeast of Columbus), tweeted that the officer was wrong to fatally shoot Bryant, and she argued that messaging was harmful considering the circumstances of the 911 call. Other high-profile conservatives, such as Republican Sen. Tom Cottons, expressed similar criticism of James’ alleged commentary.
Before we address James’ messaging, let us explain what police body-camera video showed about Bryant’s death.
On April 20, a Columbus police officer (who department leaders later identified as Nicholas Reardon, a one-year veteran of the department) arrived to a chaotic scene of people in a driveway and fired his gun four times, striking Bryant, after she charged two people with a knife. (See our frame-by-frame analysis of the footage here.)
After the gunshots, other video showed police approaching Bryant slumped over on the sidewalk and doing chest compressions on her, as witnesses screamed and shouted in dismay. Medics eventually arrived and pronounced the teenager dead at a nearby hospital.
As the body-cam video spread rapidly online on April 21 — the day after a 12-person jury in Minneapolis convicted Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd, a Black man, while working as a police officer — James indeed tweeted a photo that showed a white police officer who he believed killed Bryant with the message: “YOU’RE NEXT #ACCOUNTABILITY” and an hourglass emoji.
Based on the timing and content of the post, the message seemed to imply the officer who shot the teenager was in the wrong and that he should face a fate similar to Chauvin, who could spend decades in prison for Floyd’s death.
Whether the picture authentically depicted Reardon was undetermined.
James later deleted that tweet and said his push for increasing accountability of law-enforcement agencies “isn’t about one officer” but rather the “entire system.” He said in a series of follow-up posts:
In sum, James at one point authored a post that indeed condemned the officer’s actions in the Columbus driveway, seemingly comparing the cop to Chauvin based on the timing and content of the tweet; he later clarified his push for holding law enforcement agencies accountable for violence against civilians “isn’t about one officer” (Reardon).
Considering that evidence, we rate this claim “True.”