Police said Friday that they found “no evidence” that officers used excessive force in detaining Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett during an August incident in Las Vegas and that they had reasonable suspicion to make the stop.
Bennett has accused police officers of racial profiling, saying they pointed guns at him and used excessive force in the incident, which occurred outside a nightclub after the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Conor McGregor fight on Aug. 26.
The body camera of the officer who initially detained Bennett was not turned on. Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said Friday that police sorted through 861 videos, including from body cameras from other officers and hotel security cameras, and found that 193 were pertinent to the investigation. From there, they said they pieced together a timeline of the incident and played video for the media at a news conference. They said Bennett’s detainment lasted about 10 minutes, seven of which were spent in a police car.
The video shown by police showed an officer with his weapon drawn over Bennett on the sidewalk. Police said Bennett was handcuffed, moved to a police vehicle and spoken to by another officer, who told Bennett that police were looking for an active shooter. After an exchange with police that lasted a few minutes, police took the handcuffs off Bennett and he was told he could leave. Bennett shook one of the officers’ hands and walked away.
Lombardo said the internal investigation showed that the officers behaved “appropriately and professionally” and that “the incident was not about race.” He said two other individuals were also detained in a similar manner, one black and one Hispanic.
Bennett told reporters earlier this month that the incident was “a traumatic experience for me and my family” and that he was considering filing a civil rights lawsuit.
He first gave his side of the incident on Twitter on Sept 6. He said officers pointed guns at him “for doing nothing more than simply being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time” and ordered him to lie down on the ground.
Bennett wrote that one officer, with his gun drawn, warned him that he would “blow my f—ing head off” if he moved. Another officer jammed his knee into Bennett’s back and handcuffed him, according to Bennett.
“The Officers’ excessive use of force was unbearable,” Bennett wrote. “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.'”
Bennett wrote that he was placed in a police car before officers confirmed his identity, realized he was not a suspect and released him “without any legitimate justification for the Officers’ abusive conduct.”
“They apparently realized I was not a thug, common criminal or ordinary black man but Michael Bennett a famous professional football player,” he wrote.
The video police aired Friday showed Bennett identifying himself as a Seahawks player after police allowed him to get out of the police car and told him he was not under arrest.
Bennett’s attorney, John Burris in Oakland, California, said he wants to review the videos more closely. But he said he believed the clips shown verified Bennett’s accounts.
“He was not acting improperly,” Burris told The Associated Press. “He was not acting suspicious. He was not involved in any criminal activity.
“There’s nothing to go on, no description, other than you see this big black man running,” the attorney added. “He was running like everyone else, trying to get away.”
Lombardo said the intent of Friday’s news conference was not to “disparage” Bennett, acknowledging 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,” Lombardo said. “Those who experience such a stop, especially when they have not committed a crime, are not likely to feel good about it. But there is a reason why officers are trained to do what they do and what they did that night.”
The officer who chased Bennett and handcuffed him didn’t have his body camera on at the time, Lombardo said, and might face departmental discipline.
Otherwise, “I believe they acted appropriately and professionally,” the sheriff said of the officers.