Michael Bennett, a defensive end for the National Football League’s Seattle Seahawks, said Wednesday that police used racial profiling and excessive force when they pointed guns at him during an incident after the Mayweather-McGregor fight in Las Vegas last month.
Bennett, who is among the most well-known players to sit in protest for the national anthem before games, shared his account of the story in a letter he posted to Twitter on Wednesday. According to his statement, the incident occurred early in the morning on Aug. 27, after the Mayweather-McGregor fight.
While leaving an after party at a casino, Bennett said he was going back to his hotel when a crowd of people heard what sounded like gunshots, and he instinctively ran away from the sound, looking for a safe place to take cover.
Then, Bennett said, “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.”
“A police officer ordered me to get on the ground,” Bennett continued. “As I laid on the ground, complying with his commands to not move, he placed his gun near my head and warned me that if I moved he would ‘blow my fucking head off.'”
Another officer then came over and jammed his knee into his back, Bennett claimed, causing him to have trouble breathing. The officer then handcuffed the football star, cinching the cuffs so tight Bennett said he lost feeling in his fingers.
Bennett describes feeling helpless and fearing for his life during the incident. When asking the officers what he had done, he said they replied by telling him to shut up and then took him to the back of a patrol car.
The officers eventually released Bennett, and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said at a Wednesday press conference that his department had launched an investigation into the incident and that Bennett had been detained for a total of 10 minutes.
McMahill said that so far he had found “no evidence that race played any role in this incident” and also noted that both of the officers who detained Bennett were Hispanic. The officers were responding to a call of battery and assault with a gun that had evolved into an active shooter situation.
As officers conducted a search inside and outside of Drai’s nightclub, the area where shots were supposedly heard, the scene became chaotic, with many people running from the club and casino in a panic. The officers then spotted Bennett crouched behind some machines, McMahill said, and Bennett then darted outside with the officers pursing him. The officers then took Bennett down and detained him.
McMahill said the officers explained the situation to Bennett, and at the time Bennett had no problem with how officers handled it, except for putting a gun to his head. During the press conference, McMahill played a video of officers searching the casino, with hordes of people running from the scene. It was later found that there was no shooter in the area and the sound heard was not a gunshot.
A video released by TMZ Wednesday shows an officer handcuffing Bennett. At one point, Bennett yelled to the officer: “I wasn’t doing nothing, man. I was here with my friends. They told us to get out; everybody ran. Can you answer my question, sir?”
McMahill said he did not know why Bennett had been singled out and hoped that the investigation would clarify that. He also said that anyone with video of the incident should send it to police to help the investigation, and urged Bennett to file a formal complaint.
Bennett said he had hired Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris to explore all legal options available to him. Burris also released a statement Wednesday, claiming that his client was an innocent victim of excessive force.
“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.”