The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department says there is “no evidence” to support Michael Bennett’s claim that race played a part in his temporary detention last month, when police were called to a nightclub after what turned out to be an erroneous report of an active shooter.
In a press briefing on Wednesday, Undersheriff Kevin McMahill disputed Mr. Bennett’s allegation and showed members of the media a five-minute video clip documenting the incident from the body camera of one of the officers involved.
“Many of the folks today have called this an incident of bias-based policing, [that] police officers focus solely on the race of an individual that they are going to stop,” Mr. McMahill said. “I can tell you as I stand here today, I see no evidence of that. I see no evidence that race played any role in this incident.”
“In fact,” he continued, “as you’ll notice throughout this video as I play for you, while officers were searching the casino, they were able to safely evacuate many patrons of all races. It is also important for me to note to you, both of the officers involved in this incident in question are of Hispanic origin.”
Bennett, a defensive lineman for the Seattle Seahawks, published a letter Wednesday morning in which he said 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,” he wrote in the letter. “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 f–king head off.'”
Mr. McMahill disputed that account.
He said Bennett was crouched behind a gaming machine while officers were searching the casino.
“Once Bennett was in the officers’ view, he quickly ran out of the south doors, jumped over a wall onto Flamingo Road E and Las Vegas Boulevard into traffic,” Mr. McMahill said. “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 into handcuffs and detained while officers determined whether or not he was involved in the original incident,” he 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 had no problem with what the officers did, just the one that he claimed an officer had pointed a gun at his head.”
Las Vegas police responded to a report of an active shooter at Drai’s Nightclub at the Cromwell early in the morning on Aug. 27, just a few hours after the Mayweather-McGregor fight.
Patrons at the club reported hearing several loud sounds resembling gunshots. Police said they have not been able to figure out what caused the sounds, but that no shots appear to have been fired.
The video released Wednesday showed several officers forming a human chain and drawing their weapons as they enter the dimly lit casino. Dozens of patrons run past the officers as they make an initial sweep of the casino floor.
Toward the end of the video, when the officer with the body camera is standing at the entrance to the casino, two officers can be seen giving chase through gaming machines and yelling at a man to stop. The last thing the video shows is an officer handcuffing Mr. Bennett on a sidewalk outside of the casino.
The officer who arrested Bennett did not have his body camera activated at the time.
Other videos that have emerged from the incident have not shown the officer pointing a gun at Bennett’s head. He also cannot be heard threatening to shoot Bennett.
Mr. McMahill said the department has opened an investigation and has 126 videos to review. He asked any members of the public with additional video of the incident to turn the footage over to the police.Bennett has been an outspoken supporter of former National Football League quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who last year protested police violence against black men by sitting or kneeling during the national anthem before football games.
Bennett has promised to sit during the national anthem this season.
The Las Vegas Metro Police Protective Association, the department’s union, sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday asking him to investigate what it called Bennett’s “obvious false allegations against our officers.”
“While the NFL may condone Bennett’s disrespect for our American flag, and everything it symbolizes, we hope the league will not ignore Bennett’s false accusations against our police officers,” the letter said.
Mr. Goodell issued a statement supporting Bennett on Wednesday, saying the Pro Bowl defensive lineman “represents the best of the NFL.”
“Our foremost concern is the welfare of Michael and his family. While we understand the Las Vegas police department will address this later this evening, the issues Michael has been raising deserve serious attention from all of our leaders in every community,” the commissioner said in a statement. “We will support Michael and all NFL players in promoting mutual respect between law enforcement and the communities they loyally serve and fair and equal treatment under the law.”
Bennett’s allegations and anthem protest are sure to be widely discussed topics when the Seahawks open their regular season against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
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