The LAPD cop who sought to meet LeBron James to discuss “the reality” of policing said the NBA superstar has not replied to his open letter – and revealed he almost had to use deadly force four times during his career.
“I was LeBron James before I became a police officer,” Deon Joseph, who addressed James player after his inflammatory tweet about the Ohio officer who fatally shot 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, told Fox News on Tuesday night.
“I did not want to be a police officer at all. Being young and African American growing up in the late 80s and 90s, which were very violent and turbulent times, I thought that the police were basically our natural enemy,” the 24-year veteran told host Sean Hannity.
“It’s almost like a rite of passage — if you’re African American, you have to hate the police,” he said.
On April 21, the Los Angeles Lakers player sparked controversy when he tweeted a picture of Columbus Police Officer Nicholas Reardon along with the ominous-sounding caption, “YOU’RE NEXT.”
He later deleted the tweet amid a backlash, saying he took the missive down because it was “being used to create more hate.”
In a Sunday post on Facebook, Joseph assailed James for allegedly “putting a target” on Reardon’s back – but said he hoped to meet the famed hoopsters so the two can sit down and talk about the reality of police work.
“If I do or don’t, I’m not going to lose any love for him,” the officer said on Fox News. “I think the work he does for children and charities is incredible. It’d be disappointing but if it inspires other people and their committee members start talking again, then that’s good with me.”
Joseph continued: “If he doesn’t feel like [apologizing]. He doesn’t have to. I just thought it would be good if you know you’re wrong on an issue that you could at least say, ‘Hey I got this one wrong. Yes I want accountability, but this one I got wrong.’”
He said he wrote the letter because the officer who shot Ma’Khia “could have been me.”
“I’m thinking of four times in my career I almost had to use deadly force on somebody, and I didn’t sleep for two days,” he told Hannity. “I was this close to shooting a young man to save other people while I’m going home off duty, and that would have been said about me without him knowing who I am.
Joseph added: “I wake up praying that I’ve never ever had to take the life of another human being.”
He said he decided to join the LAPD when his family business shut down during the Rodney King riots.
“I was struggling that inner struggle with my blackness. ‘Was I betraying my people?’ And of course the answer was, ‘no,’” he said. “Once I joined the academy, all the stereotypes that I was fed about police kind of disappeared.”
Joseph stressed the importance of remembering that the vast majority of cops are decent people.
“We’re human beings dealing with human beings and that’s not always going to be perfect or pretty,” he said.