LeBron James joins national criticism after rough arrest of black teen by white cop in Broward

Video shows Broward deputies pepper-spraying, punching teen

Video posted on social media shows Broward sheriff's deputies pepper-spraying and punching a teen during a confrontation near J.P. Taravella High.
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Video posted on social media shows Broward sheriff's deputies pepper-spraying and punching a teen during a confrontation near J.P. Taravella High.

LeBron James joined a growing chorus of national voices critical of a white Broward County deputy’s rough arrest of a black teenager last week, an encounter recorded on video that captured the officer slamming the J.P. Taravella High School student’s head onto the pavement.

James, the former Miami Heat superstar and often an outspoken voice on social issues, tweeted about the incident to his 42.5 million Twitter followers over the weekend, saying the image, “Hurts me to my soul!! To think that could be my sons. Scary times man.”

It wasn’t the only comment from the world of sports. Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills also weighed in on Twitter, saying he was “beyond sick of seeing this” and calling for the ouster of the officers involved in the incident.

The questions also intensified in South Florida during a Saturday meeting between black leaders and Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony, who late last week promised a full investigation. During a 57-second clip of that meeting posted on Twitter, Tony acknowledged that the racial differences between cop and kid would heighten scrutiny of the department’s response.

“Any time a white deputy is involved in contact while using force on a black youth, this thing blows up,” he said on the clip.

The Saturday meeting, with several elected black leaders, including Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, state Rep. Patricia Williams and Rick Hoye, vice president of the Broward Democratic Party, had been previously planned, but the arrest took center stage.

“That’s the most electrifying and dangerous situation for a law enforcement administrator to handle,” the sheriff said during the meeting in the comments posted on Twitter. “How we handle that from an administrative standpoint has to be tactful.”

Jeff Bell, president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, pushed back against the questions on Monday. He defended the two officers involved — Deputy Christopher Krickovich and Sgt. Greg LaCerra — asking that Tony immediately release any police body camera footage to show the public more clearly the threats the officers faced. He said it was clear on the video that the teen pushed into the pavement was resisting arrest when he got into a “pushup position.”

“I am completely standing behind the deputies,” said Bell, the union leader. “I’m calling on the sheriff to release the body camera footage. They did exactly what we’re now being told to do. So I have to support the deputies because they’re following their training.”

Also Monday, Broward State Attorney Michael Satz said his office was investigating the incident and would meet with the attorney representing the 15-year-old who was slammed into the ground and arrested by Krickovich.

The rough arrest of the two teens sparked outrage. Though the teens were not named, a Twitter hashtag, #JusticeForLucca, was trending. High-profile activists weighed in, including Marjory Stoneman Douglas survivor David Hogg, who was retweeted by activist and writer Shaun King. CNN aired the video of the arrest. And Golden State Warrior coach Steve Kerr also reacted with outrage on Twitter. “What the hell is wrong with our country? This is insane yet routine. So demoralizing.”

The incident came to light Friday after cellphone video surfaced of dozens of black teens surrounding the two white BSO officers outside a McDonald’s restaurant near J.P. Taravella High in Coral Springs. While one teen is handcuffed and on the ground, another approaches Krickovich before the officer pepper-sprays him, takes him to the ground, forces his head into the pavement, then punches him in the head.

The blowback was immediate from some Broward political leaders: Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen and Broward School Board member Dr. Rosalind Osgood demanded Krickovich’s dismissal. Tony, appointed by the governor after Broward Sheriff Scott Israel was removed earlier this year, promised a transparent and fair investigation into the incident. But he warned it could take time. Krickovich and LaCerra, were placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

“I talked to a dozen kids and two adults who were there,” said Osgood. “They all said the kid didn’t go after anyone. My biggest concern right now is my children. This can’t be something we just sweep under the rug. People are just tired of kids being beaten up.”

The initial cellphone video was not time-stamped and was at first shared on Snapchat. The two teens were arrested Thursday. One was charged with trespassing; the other, with assaulting an officer and obstruction without violence. In the arrest report Krickovich said the incident began when a group of students gathered to watch a fight. Deputies, Krickovich said, were in the area because a fight had broken out in the area the previous day.

Krickovich said he felt threatened as the crowd grew in size.

“Again, the three of us were outnumbered by the large group of students who were yelling, threatening us and surrounding us,” the deputy said. “I had to act quickly fearing I would get struck or having a student potentially grab weapons off my belt vest.”