Florida sheriff threatens to pull security for Tampa Bay Rays after Breonna Taylor tweet

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The sheriff in charge of protecting the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team has said he may withdraw his officers from their work with the players, after he was angered by a tweet attacking Kentucky police.

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 Louisville officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor on March 13, while she was at home in bed, to be fired.

‘Today is Opening Day, which means it’s a great day to arrest the killers of Breonna Taylor,’ the Rays tweeted last week.  

Bob Gualtieri, sheriff of Pinellas County, told the Tampa Bay Times he was reassessing his sheriff’s work with the team in the light of their July 24 tweet attacking Kentucky police

The Tampa Bay Rays tweeted a call for Louisville officers to be arrested for the shooting

The Tampa Bay Rays tweeted a call for Louisville officers to be arrested for the shooting

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. 

Taylor was killed by police on March 13

Taylor was killed by police on March 13

‘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 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 the would not comment on the discussions between the organization and the sheriff.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri (yellow neck tie, center of frame) seen with Donald Trump as Trump signs an executive order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities in the Rose Garden

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri (yellow neck tie, center of frame) seen with Donald Trump as Trump signs an executive order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities in the Rose Garden

The Tampa Bay Rays's stadium, Tropicana Field, is in Pinellas County in Florida

The Tampa Bay Rays’s stadium, Tropicana Field, is in Pinellas County in Florida

The team resumed playing on July 24 after a break due to the coronavirus pandemic

The team resumed playing on July 24 after a break due to the coronavirus pandemic

‘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, 26, was shot and killed by Louisville police on March 13, while sleeping in her own home

Taylor, 26, was shot and killed by Louisville police on March 13, while sleeping in her own home

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