Former NBA player and coach, Earl Watson, felt personally affected by the death of a Black man from his hometown, Kansas City, who was killed by police.
“He agreed to pay for the funeral of Cameron Lamb in Kansas City,” Civil rights attorney Lee Merritt told BET in a phone interview on Dec. 11.
Merritt is representing the family of Lamb, the 26-year-old father of three, who was fatally shot by a police officer while he was in his car in the backyard of his Kansas City home on Dec. 3.
According to Merritt, Watson reached out to him and to Lamb’s family to offer condolences and pay for the victim’s funeral.
“He just reached out to me and reached out to the family and just wanted them to know that he was affected by it because he’s from the Kansas City area,” Merritt told BET.
In a phone interview with BET on Friday (Dec. 13), Watson, who said he’s “been doing things in the [Kansas City] community since 2001” when he was first drafted to the NBA, confirmed his generous offer to the Lamb family.
“It’s the first time I ever came across a situation like this and it moved me because we’ve been seeing this across the country and to have it happen in your own backyard and it gets notoriety [in the media] it moved me because a lot of times you don’t hear about it, you just gotta get word of mouth in the community,” he told BET.
“So, I reached out to Lee [Merritt] and let him know I’d like to try and help the family if possible and if they want my help,” Watson continued. “I left it up to [the family] to keep it private or to put me behind it just to get their story out more.”
Watson is no stranger to the impact of gun violence.
In August of 2014, his brother, Dwayne Hooks, was shot, Yahoo Sports reported at the time.
According to police reports, on Aug. 27, 2014, Dwayne Hooks got involved in an altercation that also involved Watson’s other brother Fernando Hooks.
Fernando had an argument with his stepdaughter. She left and returned with her boyfriend, Tremayne Quinn, which led to a physical altercation between Fernando and Quinn, Yahoo Sports reported.
Quinn took out a gun and allegedly shot both Dwayne and Fernando in their legs as he was running away, according to a witness and police reports. A woman driving by in a car was also shot in the leg by a stray bullet, Yahoo Sports reported.
Dwayne, 48, who was a retired police officer, developed blood clots from the shooting and while being treated for his gunshot wound died on Aug. 30, 2014, Yahoo Sports reported.
His death was ruled a homicide. Quinn, who was 20 at the time, was charged with one count of voluntary manslaughter and two counts of aggravated battery, Yahoo Sports reported.
“For me, I’ve seen and witnessed my mom cry for my brother being murdered and being shot and I don’t think you’ve ever heard a mother cry until you’ve heard her cry for the loss of losing a child,” Watson told BET. “So, that just connected me immediately [to Lamb] and then I came home [to Kansas City] and met with the family and covered the funeral expenses.
“I let them know whatever they need financially I could do what I can do,” Watson added.
“There’s nothing I can do to change the past but if I need to give a statement or anything just to help and to give them some support around trying to have closure, that’s what I get from the family, they just want closure and transparency,” Watson continued.
Lamb’s mother, Laurie Bey, spoke to BET in a phone interview on Thursday (Dec. 12) about Watson’s generosity and support.
“Everything is so overwhelming and we were just so grateful. There are just no words to express how grateful we are,” she said. “[Watson] did say he wanted to do that and from my understanding, he will be covering the whole cost of the funeral services. We are truly grateful and appreciative of his kind gesture during our difficult time.”
Watson told BET that NBA Golden State Warriors’ shooting guard, 28-year-old Alec Burks from Grandview, Missouri, also offered to help him with Lamb’s funeral expenses.
“I reached out to Alec, he was my teammate when we played together in the Utah Jazz, he’s currently playing for Golden State,” Watson explained. “I’m very close to his mom and his dad, [they’re] a great family. [Alec] agreed to pay half of the funeral expenses and I think that’s big because he’s younger and he’s getting involved in helping in the community that raised him.”
The Lamb family finds Cameron’s tragic death suspicious and they want the officer who used deadly force to be held accountable, according to KCTV5.
Merritt, who has represented the families of Botham Jean in the Amber Guyger case, and Atatiana Jefferson, among others, told BET the constant deaths of Black men and women by police has created an upheaval in communities of color.
“I think people are getting more and more frustrated and they’re looking for opportunities to fight,” Merritt said. “I’m also just flooded with people really from the streets, people who are experiencing brutality, communities that are over-policed, communities that are marginalized in terms of resources. The streets are upset. The streets are becoming more volatile.”
Merritt added the effects of police killings in the Black community aren’t just impacting those struggling financially and in underserved neighborhoods, it’s also reaching the Black middle-to-upper-class as well.
“Even the celebrities, even the people who are doing well in business, upper-middle-class folks, who follow on social media, they’re continually experiencing the trauma, and not only are they experiencing it, but it’s reaching those communities as well,” Merritt told BET.
“No one feels safe anymore,” he continued. “Botham Jean, for example, he was an accountant, living in a swanky apartment in a nice part of Dallas. So, it doesn’t feel like it’s just something that’s a constraint to just the lower-class communities anymore.”
Watson agreed and told BET, “Even for me. I’m very aware of if I get pulled over, how to be. Just that interaction still makes me nervous.”