(Reuters) – Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump tweeted on Saturday the shooting death of a cousin of NBA star Dwyane Wade affirmed his campaign comments about violence in minority communities and highlighted why black voters would support him in November.
Trump’s Twitter message came a day after Nykea Aldridge, a 32-year-old mother of four, was shot in the head and arm by crossfire in Chicago while pushing a baby in a stroller, police said.
Police were questioning two people on Saturday in connection with the shooting, which may have come from a stray bullet from a robbery attempt, the Chicago Tribune reported, citing police.
“Dwayne Wade’s cousin was just shot and killed walking her baby in Chicago,” Trump said on Twitter. “Just what I have been saying. African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP!”
Later, Trump’s tweet was deleted and reissued with the correct spelling of Dwyane Wade’s name.
Trump’s tweet drew immediate and widespread criticism as insensitive and opportunist, although hours later, Trump also offered a second, more somber comment on Twitter offering condolences to Wade and his family over the death of Aldridge.
Actor Don Cheadle sparked a spirited, hours-long debate on Twitter in which he characterized Trump’s tweet as “more red meat to his alt-right troglodytes.”
One of Trump’s highest profile supporters defended the tweet, calling it fair comment considering that Chicago, which has long been governed by the Democratic Party, has some of the worst gun violence in the country.
“Maybe it was a little clumsy but I don’t think it was opportunistic,” said Jeffrey Lord on CNN as part of his regular commentary on behalf of Trump for the cable network.
“We’re talking about violence that is out of control,” Lord said. “As he has been pointing out relentlessly, there are cities all across this country that have been run by the same party for decades and this is what his happening,” Lord said.
Representatives from the campaigns of Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton could not be reached immediately for comment.
In a city with as many as 90 shootings a week, homicides in Chicago this year are on track to hit their highest level since 1997.
This death drew national attention because of the connection to Wade, a 12-time NBA All-Star with the Miami Heat who signed a two-year, $47.5 million deal this summer to play for his hometown team, the Chicago Bulls.
“My cousin was killed today in Chicago. Another act of senseless gun violence. Four kids lost their mom for no reason. Unreal,” Wade said on Twitter.
Wade’s nephew Darin Johnson was one of six people shot by two gunmen in a South Side convenience store in 2012 in which one person was killed, the Chicago Tribune said.
Wade established the Dwyane Wade’s World Foundation, which supports children in at-risk situations.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Alden Bentley)