LAS VEGAS — Police say Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett ran from officers searching for what they believed was an active shooter inside a Las Vegas Strip casino before he was stopped at gunpoint and handcuffed for questioning.
Bennett wasn’t arrested during the encounter with police outside the Cromwell casino in the early morning hours of Aug. 27, after the Aug. 26 boxing match between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor.
Bennett said Wednesday that he believes police singled him out as he was running because he is black, and that officers used excessive force against him.
Clark County Undersheriff Kevin McMahill says Bennett didn’t stop when officers saw him emerge from behind a gambling machine and run outside into traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard.
McMahill says at least one officer who chased Bennett didn’t have his body camera activated. He had no explanation for the camera being off.
But he says police internal affairs investigators are now going through hundreds of other videos as part of an internal investigation.
As to allegations that police went after Bennett because he is black, McMahill said, “I see no evidence that race played any role in the incident” and added that the officers who detained him were Hispanic.
Bennett posted a letter on Twitter and Instagram Wednesday saying police officers targeted him and used excessive force during a chaotic situation on Aug. 26.
Bennett says he was leaving the fight and heading back to the hotel (on his day off) when people heard what sounded like shots fired.
“Like many of the people in the area I ran away from the sound, looking for safety. 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 says an officer ordered him to the ground, placed a gun near his head and told him that if he moved the officer would “blow (his) f***ing head off.”
Here’s Bennett’s account of what happened next:
“The officers’ excessive use of force was unbearable. I felt helpless as I lay there on the ground handcuffed facing the real-life threat of being killed. All I could think of was ‘I’m going to die for no other reason than I am black and my skin color is somehow a threat.’ My life flashed before my eyes as I thought of my girls. Would I ever play with them again? Or watch them have kids? Or be able to kiss my wife again and tell her I love her?”
Bennett says he kept asking the officers what he had done and reminding them that he had rights. The officers took him to a police car, confirmed his identity as a famous football player and eventually released him.
“I have always held a strong conviction that protesting or standing up for justice is just simply, the right thing to do. This fact is unequivocally, without question why before every game I sit during the national anthem — because equality doesn’t live in this country and no matter how much money you make, what job title you have, or how much you give, when you are seen as a “N*****,” you will be treated that way.
“The system failed me. I can only imagine what Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Charleena Lyles felt.
“I have 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.”
Bennett later posted a photo of an officer appearing to hold a gun near his head while he was lying on the ground during the incident.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also weighed in on the Bennett incident.