The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department on Wednesday rejected NFL star Michael Bennett’s claim that Las Vegas officers violently detained him late last month because he’s black.
“I see no evidence that race played any role in this incident,” Kevin McMahill, the undersheriff of the department, said at a press conference.
Bennett, a defensive end for the Seattle Seahawks, tweeted earlier on Wednesday that the sound of apparent gunshots after the Aug. 26 Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight in Las Vegas drove him and others to flee the area.
A terrifying sequence of events followed, according to Bennett, who said that police pinned him down with excessive force, pointed a gun at him while threatening to blow his head off, and then detained him in a vehicle for what felt like an “eternity.”
Bennett was eventually released after police confirmed his identity, he said. “Las Vegas 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,” he wrote.
McMahill said officers deemed Bennett’s actions suspicious. According to police, he had crouched down behind a gaming machine at the Cromwell casino and then run out the doors and into traffic when they approached.
“Due to Bennett’s actions, and the information the officers had at the time, they believed that Bennett may have been involved in the shooting and they gave chase,” McMahill told reporters. “Bennett was placed in handcuffs and detained while officers determined whether or not he was involved in the incident.”
The undersheriff played one chaotic video leading up to the incident. In the clip, officers appear to be looking for the alleged shooter while evacuating the casino. (Police later determined that no shooting had occurred.) Just after the 12-minute mark, they can also be seen giving chase out the exit. The video cuts to Bennett, whom officers are detaining on the ground.
McMahill said police held Bennett “for approximately 10 minutes” and countered his accusation that cops had refused to justify their actions.
“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 officers did, just the one that he claimed the officer had pointed a gun at his head,” McMahill said.
McMahill said that while the arresting officer did not have his bodycam activated at the time, the department was poring over more than 100 videos as part of its investigation. He also asked anyone who shot cell phone video to bring it to the attention of the department.
Bennett has hired a civil rights attorney to explore possible legal action. Meanwhile, the local police union has sent a letter to the NFL commissioner’s office calling for an investigation into Bennett’s “false allegations.”