Las Vegas police show new body cam footage of Michael Bennett detainment
LAS VEGAS — Police in Las Vegas said in a news conference Friday afternoon that they found no evidence that officers used excessive force when they detained Michael Bennett after a reported shooting in August.
Sheriff Joe Lombardo showed several clips during the Friday news conference and walked reporters through what was happening from the police viewpoint.
Las Vegas Metro police said they reviewed 861 separate videos related to the investigation and found 193 of them were pertinent to the investigation.
However, the evidence released by the Las Vegas Police Department on Friday does not visually show the moment of Bennett’s apprehension. Bennett said the first officer who stopped him and threw him to the ground held a gun to his head and threatened to shoot him. Police later said that officer did not have his body camera turned on, so there is no video of the initial encounter.
But police admitted that the initial officer had his gun out.
But Lombardo said there was nothing to support Bennett’s allegation, made in a Twitter post more than a week later, that an officer put a gun to Bennett’s head and threatened to blow his head off.
“From the evidence we have at this point, we don’t know (the officer) said that,” the sheriff said.
“There were some serious allegations in (Bennett’s) statements and I thought it appropriate to conduct a thorough investigation, because it was far reaching,” Lombardo said. “It has national implications. And more importantly it disparaged my police department and officers involved in this investigation.”
The Seahawks defensive end said earlier this month that he believes police singled him out as he was running because he is black, and that officers used excessive force against him.
Bennett’s lawyer, John Burris, said in a phone interview with Q13 News on Friday afternoon that the videos released by the Las Vegas Police Department show “civil rights violations. It’s unlawful to detain or arrest a person without reasonable suspicion, it cannot be subjective. An officer can’t just say, I want to do this, or he looks like the person — must be a basis. It’s illegal to detain without reasonable suspicion and cannot be contrived. Also excessive fore — using a firearm to detain someone that shouldn’t be detained. Also the use of verbal(ing) and handcuffing someone who should not have been handcuffed, these are Fourth Amendment violations.”
Bennett has said he feared for his life after the incident in Las Vegas following the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight.
“I’m just lucky to be here to be able to speak about it,” he said. “At any moment, I could’ve made the wrong decision whether to move, or (if police) felt like I was resisting or doing something wrong, and the Seahawks would be wearing the patch with No. 72 on it,” he said, referencing a common way NFL teams memorialize players they’ve lost.
Bennett wrote a letter and posted it on Sept. 6 explaining the "terrifying" experience.
"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 said 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."
"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?"
Lombardo attempted to refute many of the allegations made by Bennett, and said his detention was not racially motivated nor out of the ordinary. He also said there was no evidence a gun was pointed at Bennett's head.
“The total incident took approximately 10 minutes and the time in the car was approximately 7 minutes. So you can see the detention was not excessive," Lombardo said. "He complained about his handcuffs, the officers loosened them. As soon as it was determined there wasn’t a shooter he was released. He was given reason for his detention, and he was apologized to for his detention."
He said officers acted exactly how they were supposed to in this situation.
“I want to say that I understand that being detained for a suspected felony is not a pleasant experience," he said. "But having said that I also want to say that the officers responding that night were heroic. They ran in vs. away. They did what they were trained to do."
In Las Vegas, Lombardo also said two others were detained that night: a hispanic male and a black male.
"Barring any additional evidence this investigation is pretty much finished," he said. "There was no evidence that would show he was (racially targeted).”
The sheriff said a formal complaint was filed with his office in the last three days.
Q13 News has reached out to Bennett's lawyer for a response.
WARNING: This video has graphic language.
Watch the video above and read the full interaction between Bennett and the officer below.
Officer: Alright, you hear what he said?
Bennett: Yeah, I’m not mad at you all.
Officer: You understand this. We hear somebody shooting in there, everyone’s down, you’re running
Bennett: Am trying to get out, my kids…
Officer: Yeah, stop stop stop talking. I understand but you understand how that looks though?
Officer: Ok, you are not under arrest. We’re gonna get you out of here, ok? But 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 it’s not you.
Officer: And if it’s not you we don’t have time to be out here talking to you I just need to get your name do you have an ID on you?
Bennett: No man, my name is Michael Bennett, Seattle Seahawks – look it up. Yeah I heard gunshots and ran like everybody else… Then I’m running and the reason I ran cause they said get out…
Officer: Ok we understand, what’s your date of birth?
Bennett: And then the dude put the… told me to get down, put the gun to the back of my head saying he’s gonna blow my head off I was scared as f*** man.
Officer: When stuff like this happens we don’t have time to get into a talk with somebody, explain s***. We have to make sure people are safe, we have to have it happen now.
Bennett: Yeah, but I’m one of the people trying to be safe… if somebody’s shooting…
Officer: You understand though, what I’m saying is, when everybody else is down and you’re running we don’t know what is going on… We don’t have time to figure everything out, that’s why we threw you back here and made sure you were safe, threw you back here while we’re trying to figure everything out, so that’s why this happened.
Officer: I believe you 100 percent you didn’t do anything. But we don’t have time to have one-on-ones when there is somebody in there shooting at us. We have to make sure this is taken care of. At no point were you under arrest.
Bennett: But the other dude over there man, he put me on the ground I was...
Officer: He probably thought maybe you were the shooter, cause like I said you were running, so he’s probably like well I don’t have time… Sometimes they say stuff like that just to get compliance real quick so we can get it taken care of then figure it out when everybody is safe.
Officer: I imagine he’s a… but if I can get a picture of him… Michael Bennett.
Officer: I’ve heard of him.
Officer: Do you recognize him?
Officer: Hey, it’s unfortunate but we had to do it… and we don’t know if people are shooting at us, so when you’re yelling at us we just need to get you there fast.
Officer: Sorry that happened, but… might wanna head the other… hey you gotta go that way, this is all blocked off.