By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
Former NBA guard DeLonte West is in trouble with the law after he was captured on police video following his arrest for his role in a street fight on Oxon Hill Road near National Harbor in Prince George’s County on Jan 20. However, the Prince George’s County Police Department is facing scrutiny after the video surfaced once it went viral on social media.
According to the police report, a witness told officers that she saw a man identified as West who initiated the altercation by assaulting the victim with a glass bottle and that man responded by striking the one who threw the bottle several times. After he was apprehended and in custody, West was recorded making, what appeared to be, dilliousional rantings, where he claimed to be the “real f—king president” without wearing a shirt in sub-freezing temperatures.
West played high school basketball at Greenbelt’s Eleanor Roosevelt before attending St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and having an eight year NBA career that included time with the Seattle SuperSonics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics. He responded to the police when they asked if he had acted in self defense on the video by shouting, “Walkin’ down the street and he approached me with a gun.”
During a press conference at Prince George’s Police Department headquarters on Jan. 21, Chief Hank Stawinski promised a full investigation into how the video made its way to social media. Stawinski said the department would take responsibility for the public release of the video, which wasn’t shot by police wearing body cameras.
“It’s irresponsible for that video, taken by a Prince George’s County police officer, to be in the public’s hands, and in my view, I own that,” Stawinski said during the press conference. “The department owns that.”
After their internal investigation the yet to be unidentified officer was suspended.
Many from the basketball and pro sports communities immediately took to social media in defense of West, whose career was derailed by severe mental health issues, according to those who know him. In 2015 he went public about having struggles with bipolar disorder and his career took a downhill turn, initially after rumors circulated about an alleged relationship with LeBron James mother when they were teammates in Cleveland, allegations that were never proven.
His college teammate and coach at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia gave two of the most passionate responses to the incident when news of it first broke.
Former all-American Jameer Nelson, who also had a solid NBA career after teaming with West to lead the Hawks to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite 8 in 2004, stated on his twitter account, “I’m not sure what’s going on with Dwest, but he knows I’m in his corner and will help him get through this.”
Phil Martelli, the coach who recruited the pair and led them to within 2 points of getting to the Final Four, also tweeted, “I have talked with many who are willing to help – please read and embrace Jameer’s wisdom – we are reaching out to our basketball network to get the professional help Delonte needs. This is so very painful,” in response to Nelson’s post.
With the NBA now taking an active role in mental health awareness, more players are opening up about their struggles with these problems that have been beneath the surface for many years. Last season all-stars, such as DeMarr DeRozan of the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland’s Kevin Love, were part of a public campaign urging the public to seek help after they dealt with similar problems that went unaddressed because of the locker room stigma of being considered soft if those issues went public.