The Las Vegas police department released video footage on Friday which it says contradicts NFL star Michael Bennett’s claim that he was detained by officers last month because he is black.
Bennett, a defensive end for the Seattle Seahawks, was detained early on the morning of Aug. 27, after reports of shots being fired outside of the Cromwell casino. Bennett was in town for the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor boxing match.
After the incident, in which police were looking for a person who fired a gun, Bennett released a statement claiming that he was targeted by police because of his race. He also said that he one of the officers who apprehended him pointed a gun at his head warning that he “would blow my fucking head off.”
“The Officers’ excessive use of force was unbearable,” Bennett wrote in a Sept. 6 statement. “I felt helpless as I lay there on the ground handcuffed facing the real-life threat of being killed.”
But footage from a casino where the shooting occurred, along with police body cameras, showed that the officers were justified in apprehending Bennett, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said at a press conference on Friday.
“I applaud those officers that night who did not wait to see what was happening. They instead went bravely in,” Lombardo told reporters.
Lombardo played video footage showing the moments just after police received a report of shots being fired. Officers ordered people inside of the casino to get to the ground. Most did, but several others, including Bennett, could be seen running from the scene. Police body cam footage shows officers chasing after the six-foot-four-inch Bennett.
The body cam footage then shows Bennett being handcuffed while on the ground. He is heard asking one officer what he did wrong. Lombardo noted that the footage released on Friday does not show an officer pointing a gun at Bennett’s head or threatening to shoot him. He also said of the three officers who detained Bennett, two are Hispanic and one is black.
The officers are seen on video moving Bennett to the back of a police car. At one point, as Bennett is asking why he’s being detained, an officer tells him to get his “fucking feet” in the back of the cruiser.
After the tense moment subsides, the officers informed Bennett that he was being released. They explained that the chaos of the situation warranted them detaining him and that they did not have time to explain their rationale.
“We had to make sure because all we know right now is people are shooting in there is what we’re hearing and you’re running away, so we’re making sure that’s not you,” one of the officers is heard telling Bennett.
“And if it’s not you we don’t have time to be out here talking to you,” he added.
After the officers had decided to release Bennett, he informed them that he plays for the Seahawks. The officers are seen on camera searching for him on their smart phones.
In his statement on Friday, Lombardo said that while his officers’ actions were justified, he understood why Bennett would be upset.
“I am not here to disparage him,” Lombardo said.
“As often is the case there are two sides to every story. Mr. Bennett has a valid perspective as a person who experienced a reasonable suspicion stop for a felony crime.”
“Those who experience such a stop, especially when they have not committed a crime are not likely to feel good about it,” he added.
Bennett’s attorney, John Burris, said that the video footage released on Friday shows that Bennett was “not acting improperly.”
“He was not acting suspicious. He was not involved in any criminal activity,” Burris told the Associated Press.
“There’s nothing to go on, no description, other than you see this big black man running. He was running like everyone else, trying to get away.”