The sheriff in charge of protecting the Tampa Bay Rays has said he may withdraw his officers from their work with the baseball team, after he was angered by a tweet which called for the arrest of Kentucky officers who killed Breonna Taylor.
Bob Gualtieri, sheriff of Pinellas County in Florida – a district which includes St Petersburg, where the Rays play – was furious at the July 24 tweet.
The official Twitter account of the team called for the arrest of the officers in Louisville, Kentucky, who shot and killed Taylor on March 13, while she was at home in bed.
‘Today is Opening Day, which means it’s a great day to arrest the killers of Breonna Taylor,’ the Rays tweeted last week.
Gualtieri told the Tampa Bay Times that he was angered by the tweet and called Matt Silverman, Rays president, over the weekend to make his displeasure clear.
‘To turn a baseball event into a political event is uncalled for,’ Gualtieri said.
‘It’s just wrong, and it’s improper. It’s just reckless. It’s throwing gasoline on the fire, and it didn’t need to happen.’
The Republican sheriff, who visited the White House on June 16 to meet Donald Trump, said the team shouldn’t say anything about the case when they ‘don’t know all the facts.’
Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, was shot and killed when police officers raided her home in the early hours of the morning looking for another person, and shot her.
‘The killing of Breonna Taylor was wrong and avoidable,’ said Gualtieri.
‘We have policies at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office that would not allow that situation to occur.
‘The facts show that Louisville officers acted under a judge’s warrant and were within department protocols.
‘The Tampa Bay Rays’ tweet referring to the officers as murderers and calling for the officers’ arrest ignored those facts. I conveyed my disappointment in the inaccuracy of the post.’
The Rays issued a statement to the Tampa Bay Times confirming Gualtieri had contacted them, but saying they would not comment on the discussions between the organization and the sheriff.
‘We are grateful for the dialogue we continue to have with Sheriff Gualtieri and many other law enforcement personnel,’ the statement said.
Gualtieri wasn’t alone in his displeasure for the tweet.
St. Petersburg police chief Anthony Holloway ‘disagreed with its characterization of the officers’ and was ‘very concerned’ with the message the organization sent.
Holloway said that the St. Petersburg police will continue to provide security and enforcement services despite the Rays’ tweet, while Gualtieri plans to reevaluate the sheriff’s department relationship with the club.
At present, Pinellas County deputies guard the room where concessions money is held and also help with other jobs around the stadium, including traffic control and security.
The Rays’ tweet was one of the more prominent statements from MLB organizations, and part of the league’s larger initiative to bring light to social and racial justice issues in 2020.
MLB players staged demonstrations before each team’s respective first game of the season, with some players choosing to kneel during the national anthem.
Taylor was asleep at the residence she shared with her boyfriend Kenneth Walker when officers burst into their home just before 1am.
Louisville police claim they identified themselves before using a battering ram to enter Taylor’s home, where she and her boyfriend were in bed.
Taylor’s neighbors and her family dispute this. They said police never identified themselves, and that Walker, who was legally allowed to carry a firearm, shot at the cops thinking that he was being robbed.
Police responded with gunfire, killing Taylor, who suffered eight gunshot wounds.
The warrant to search her home was in connection with a suspect who did not live there and no drugs were found.
Walker was arrested and charged with first-degree assault and attempted murder of a police officer after Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly was shot in the leg during the raid. The charges were later dropped.
Mattingly was with officers Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove during the raid.
Hankison, 44, was later fired after it was found he violated department policies by ‘blindly’ firing 10 rounds into Taylor’s home during the incident. The two other cops have been placed on administrative reassignment.
None of the officers have been arrested.