Sea­hawks’ Ben­nett al­leges racial pro­fil­ing by Las Ve­gas po­lice, who say race was not a fac­tor

Cecil Whig - - NATIONAL & LOCAL SPORTS -

(TNS) — Sea­hawks de­fen­sive line­man Michael Ben­nett said he was a vic­tim of ex­ces­sive force and racial pro­fil­ing by Las Ve­gas po­lice dur­ing an in­ci­dent Aug. 27, adding that he was held on the ground with a gun to his head.

“It was a trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence for me and my fam­ily,” Ben­nett said Wednesday be­fore prac­tice at the Sea­hawks’ fa­cil­ity in Ren­ton, Wash. “It sucks that the coun­try we are liv­ing in now some­times you get pro­filed for the color of your skin.”

Ben­nett was in Las Ve­gas to at­tend the Floyd May­weather-Conor McGre­gor fight on Aug. 26.

On Wednesday morn­ing Ben­nett re­leased a state­ment on the in­ci­dent via Twit­ter, al­leg­ing ex­ces­sive force. Ben­nett has re­tained Oak­land civil-rights at­tor­ney John Bur­ris and is con­sid­er­ing le­gal op­tions, in­clud­ing fil­ing a fed­eral civil-rights law­suit, ac­cord­ing to a sep­a­rate press re­lease Wednesday.

Ben­nett also called on the Las Ve­gas Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice Depart­ment to re­lease the names of the of­fi­cers in­volved as well as “body cam­era videos of the in­ci­dent.”

Dur­ing a news con­fer­ence Wednesday, Las Ve­gas Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice Depart­ment un­der­sh­er­iff Kevin McMahill said race was not a fac­tor in the in­ci­dent.

“I see no ev­i­dence that race played any role in this in­ci­dent,” McMahill said.

McMahill said the in­ci­dent be­gan when of­fi­cers re­sponded to re­ports of a pos­si­ble ac­tive shooter at the Cromwell Casino on Las Ve­gas Boule­vard around 1:30 a.m. Aug. 27.

In the state­ment he re­leased Wednesday, Ben­nett wrote that af­ter watch­ing the fight he was walk­ing back to his ho­tel when he heard what sounded like gun shots and ran away from the sound. Ben­nett wrote he was then sin­gled out for “sim­ply be­ing a black man” and or­dered to the ground. He wrote that one of­fi­cer held a gun to his head and told him he would “blow my (ex­ple­tive) head off.” Another of­fi­cer, Ben­nett wrote, jammed his knee into Ben­nett’s back so hard “it was dif­fi­cult for me to breathe.”

Ben­nett said he was re­leased only when of­fi­cers rec­og­nized who he was but added that he was not given a rea­son for hav­ing been ap­pre­hended.

“I was ul­ti­mately re­leased with­out any le­git­i­mate jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the Of­fi­cers’ abu­sive con­duct,” Ben­nett wrote.

Dur­ing his news con­fer­ence McMahill said Ben­nett was spot­ted “crouched down be­hind a gam­ing ma­chine as the of­fi­cers ap­proached. Once Ben­nett was in the of­fi­cers’ view he quickly ran out of the south doors, jumped over a wall onto Flamingo Road East of Las Ve­gas Boule­vard into traf­fic. Due to Ben­nett’s ac­tions and the in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cers had at the time they be­lieved Ben­nett may have been in­volved in the shoot­ing, and they gave chase.”

McMahill said two of­fi­cers with guns ap­pre­hended Ben­nett, placed him in hand­cuffs and de­tained him for 10 min­utes while of­fi­cers de­ter­mined if he was in­volved in the in­ci­dent. Af­ter it was de­ter­mined Ben­nett was not in­volved, he was re­leased, McMahill said. McMahill added that Ben­nett had the in­ci­dent ex­plained to him by a su­per­vi­sor and that “he un­der- stood and said he had no prob­lem with what the of­fi­cers did, just the one that he claimed the of­fi­cer had pointed a gun at his head.”

It was later de­ter­mined that there had been no shoot­ing, McMahill said, and the source of the sound has not been iden­ti­fied.

McMahill showed about a fiveminute video of the in­ci­dent but it was in­con­clu­sive as to what oc­curred with Ben­nett.

There are 126 pieces of video of the in­ci­dent that the LVMPD will go through, McMahill said, and he asked the public to submit any other videos they might have of the in­ci­dent. He said the of­fi­cer who ap­pre­hended Ben­nett did not have his body cam­era turned on.

McMahill said he learned of Ben­nett’s com­plaints about the in­ci­dent Wednesday and added that the depart­ment will be­gin an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion. He said the of­fi­cers in­volved had not yet been in­ter­viewed. He also said he is ask­ing for Ben­nett to submit a state­ment to the depart­ment.

Af­ter say­ing race was not a fac­tor in the in­ci­dent, McMahill noted that of­fi­cers helped safely evac­u­ate many peo­ple of all races out of the casino and Drai’s night­club and added that the two of­fi­cers that ap­pre­hended Ben­nett are His­panic.

Dur­ing his me­dia ses­sion Wednesday, Ben­nett an­swered ques­tions about the in­ci­dent for about seven min­utes but said he could not go into de­tails. The me­dia ses­sion ended sud­denly when Ben­nett be­came emo­tional while dis­cussing the in­ci­dent’s im­pact on his three daugh­ters.

“I think I try to tell my daugh- ters ev­ery sin­gle day that they mat­ter,” Ben­nett said be­fore paus­ing and then walk­ing away from the podium and out a side door.

Ben­nett said he was glad to have sur­vived, and that he has a public plat­form to bring such in­ci­dents to light. He said the in­ci­dent shows that peo­ple of color are at risk of be­ing pro­filed no mat­ter their so­cial or pro­fes­sional sta­tus.

“There are a lot of peo­ple who ex­pe­ri­ence what I ex­pe­ri­ence at that mo­ment and they are not here to live to tell their story,” Ben­nett said be­fore nam­ing no­table vic­tims of po­lice shoot­ings such as Travyon Martin, Charleena Lyles and Phi­lando Castile. “So many peo­ple have had the ex­pe­ri­ence that I had, and they are not here to tell the story.”

Ben­nett said he had not heard any­thing from the Las Ve­gas Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice Depart­ment since the in­ci­dent.

“Just let my le­gal team and my group of reps take care of it,” he said. “I’m just try­ing to come in and fo­cus on the game (the Sea­hawks’ sea­son opener Sun­day at Green Bay) and fo­cus on the task at hand, let ev­ery­thing take care of it­self.”

Ben­nett said if he had made a wrong move dur­ing the time he was be­ing held on the ground, “the Sea­hawks would be wear­ing a patch with num­ber 72 (his jer­sey num­ber) on it. So I’m just lucky to be able to be here now.”

Adding that he has heard peo­ple say he brought the in­ci­dent on him­self, Ben­nett said, “I didn’t ask for this mo­ment. It just hap­pened to be me.”

TNS PHOTO

Seat­tle Sea­hawks’ Michael Ben­nett ex­ults af­ter a tackle for loss dur­ing the first quar­ter on Sun­day, Sept. 27, 2015, at Cen­tu­ryLink Field in Seat­tle, Wash.

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