Video has emerged showing Seattle Seahawks star Michael Bennett being handcuffed on the ground by Las Vegas Metro Police as he pleads his innocence following last month’s Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Conor McGregor fight.
The Pro Bowl defensive end announced earlier Wednesday morning on Twitter that he is considering a civil rights lawsuit against the Las Vegas Metro Police. In a note addressed ‘Dear World,’ Bennett claimed police picked him out of a crowd that was running away from the sound of gunshots. Ultimately, he explained, those officers threatened to ‘blow my f****** head off.’
‘Las Vegas police officers singled me out and pointed their guns at me for doing nothing more than simply being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time,’ Bennett wrote.
The Las Vegas Metro Police Department announced an investigation into the matter on Wednesday afternoon, stating that the department has over 125 pieces of video to review in the matter.
For now, the LVMPD has not admitted any wrongdoing.
‘I can tell you as I stand here today, I see no evidence that race played any role in this incident,’ undersheriff Kevin McMahill said during the press briefing on Wednesday.
McMahill acknowledged that Bennett was not armed and confirmed that officers did indeed draw their weapons on Bennett.
‘Once Bennett was in the officer’s view, he quickly ran out of the south doors, jumped over a wall on the Flamingo road East of Las Vegas Boulevardinto traffic,’ McMahill explained Wednesday. ‘Due to Bennett’s actions and the information the officers had at the time, they believed Bennett may have been involved in the shooting and they gave chase.
‘Bennett was placed in handcuffs and detained while officers determined whether or not he was involved in the original incident,’ McMahill continued. ‘He was detained for approximately 10 minutes and released. Mr. Bennett, at the scene, had the incident explained to him by a supervisor and he said that he understood and that he had no problem with what the officer did—just the one that he claimed the officer pointed a gun at his head.’
McMahill did go on to say that ‘[i]f the investigation reveals any policies were violated, those officers will be held accountable.’
The video, obtained by TMZ, showed a portion of the incident referenced in his tweet and shows the 31-year old being arrested with a knee to his back. A second officer can be seen pointing his weapon at Bennett from a few feet away.
‘I wasn’t doing nothing, man,’ Bennett can be heard yelling. ‘I was here with my friends. They told us to get out, everybody ran.’
Bennett was ultimately saved by his status as a famous NFL player, he explained, and was released before being arrested.
‘The [o]fficers ignored my pleas and instead told me to shut up and then took me to the back of a nearby police car where I sat for what felt like an eternity until they apparently realized I was not a thug, common criminal or ordinary black man but… a famous football player,’ Bennett’s statement read.
However, according to Bennett, he was released only after enduring an ordeal that left him ‘terrified and confused.’
According to Bennett, he was returning to his hotel from T-Mobile Arena with ‘several hundred’ other people, when everyone heard what sounded like gunshots. The pack of people ran for safety, he explained, which is when a nearby police officer ordered him to get to the ground before putting a gun near his head and threatening to kill him.
Another officer allegedly ‘jammed’ his knee to Bennett’s back ‘forcefully,’ limiting his ability to breath. Then, according to Bennett, the officers cinched handcuffs on him so tightly that his fingers ‘went numb.’
“It was a traumatic experience for me and my family,” Bennett said while addressing the media at the Seahawks’ facility on Wednesday afternoon. “It sucks that the country we live in now sometimes you get profiled for the color of your skin. It’s a tough situation for me. Do I think every police officer is bad? No. I don’t believe that. Do I believe that there’s some people out there that are judging people on the color of their skin? I do believe that. I’m just focused on trying to push forward and keep continuously … the quest for justice for people. Keep pushing the quality for oppressed people.”
Bennett wrote that he has retained Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris ‘to investigate and explore all my legal options including filing a civil rights lawsuit for the violation of my constitutional rights.’
In a statement obtained by ESPN, Burris said Bennett ‘was unarmed, sober and not involved in any altercations or dispute at the time the police officers arrested and threatened to use deadly force against him.
‘We think there was an unlawful detention and the use of excessive force, with a gun put to his head,’ Burris told The Associated Press. ‘He was just in the crowd. He doesn’t drink or do drugs. He wasn’t in a fight. He wasn’t resisting. He did nothing more or less than anyone in the crowd.’
Bennett’s younger brother, Green Bay Packers tight end Martellus Bennett, described the experience of learning about the incident over the phone on Instagram: ‘The emotion and the thought of almost losing you because of the way you look left me in one of the saddest places ever. I could hear the fear in your voice, the tears in your eyes as well your sprinting heart beat. I can’t imagine how the people who lost their loved ones felt when they got the call. A lot of people feel like it couldn’t happen to them because of status, neighborhood… or whatever, but [in] all honesty YOU could be next.’
Bennett is among the NFL’s most outspoken players and recently sat on the bench during the national anthem before a preseason game to protest police violence against minorities.
‘The system failed me,’ Bennett went on to write, adding that he will continue to use his platform ‘to be able to speak to injustice.’
‘Equality,’ he explained, ‘doesn’t live in this country.’
Bennett received immediate support from controversial former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started and popularized the trend of protesting the national anthem among NFL players.
‘This violation that happened against my Brother Michael Bennett is disgusting and unjust,’ Kaepernick tweeted. ‘I stand with Michael and I stand with the people.’
Bennett has been vocally supportive of Kaepernick, who remains unsigned ahead of Thursday’s regular season opener despite the fact that he has comparable statistics to many of the league’s current quarterbacks, including several starters.
Both Bennett and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers have claimed that Kaepernick has been blackballed by the league for his political views.