Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett is accusing two Las Vegas police officers of assaulting him following a night out in the city.
Bennett, 31, says he was out with a group watching the Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor boxing match August 26 when he heard gunshots and started to flee alongside dozens of people. Shortly thereafter, he said he was pursued by police officers and ordered to the ground. Once on the ground, Bennett said he had his life threatened by the officers and was assaulted near their car.
TMZ Sports obtained a video of the aftermath of the incident, showing Bennett on the ground being handcuffed saying he didn’t do anything wrong.
Here’s what you need to know about the incident:
1. Bennett Said an Officer Threatened to Shoot Him in the Head If He Didn’t Comply
In a letter posted to social media, Bennett said he was in Vegas to attend the fight and was heading back to his hotel when the incident occurred. He said he was walking near Las Vegas Boulevard and East Flamingo Road during the early morning hours of August 27 when he heard loud noises.
“Several hundred people heard what sounded like gun shots,” he wrote.
Bennett said he ran down the street away from the sound looking for safety with a large group of people. Then, he says a Las Vegas police officer “singled him out” of the group and pointed their guns at him for what he says was “being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Bennett said he was ordered to the ground by the officer and he immediately complied with his orders. While he was on the ground, he said the officer placed his gun close to his head and said that if he moved he would “blow (his) f***ing head off.”
“Terrified and confused by what was taking place, a second officer came over and forcefully jammed his knee into my back making it difficult for me to breathe,” he wrote. “They then cinched the handcuffs on my wrists so fight that my fingers were numb.”
2. Bennett Says He Was Detained Until Officers Found out He Was an NFL Player
Bennett wrote in his account of the incident that he was terrified for his life and could only think about whether or not he was 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,” he wrote. “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 said he kept asking the officers what he did wrong, and reminded them that he has rights. Soon enough, he said the officers identified him as the football player he is, and let him go.
“The officers ignored my pleas and instead told me to shut up and then took me to the back of a nearby police car where I sat for what felt like and eternity until they apparently realized I was not a thug, common criminal or ordinary black man,” he wrote.
3. Bennett Has Retained a Civil Rights Attorney & Is Exploring All Legal Options
In response to the alleged incident, Bennett said he’s retained Civil Rights Attorney John Burris from Oakland. He’s tasked him to explore all of his legal options, including filing a lawsuit for the violation of his constitutional rights.
Burris issued a press release September 6 calling on the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department to “be transparent by immediately identifying the involved officers and releasing the officers’ body camera videos of the incident.”
Burris writes that Bennett was “unarmed, sober and not involved in any altercations or dispute at the time the police officers arrested and threatened to use deadly force against him.”
“The officers’ conduct is particularly outrageous in that there was no basis upon which to select Mr. Bennett from a crowd of people all running for their lives,” Burris wrote. “He did nothing wrong.”
It was later determined no gunshots were ever fired in the first place.
4. Burris Set up a Petition Encouraging Police to Release the Evidence
Burris ended his press release by saying a petition on ColorOfChange.org has been set up seeking signatures encouraging Las Vegas police to comply with releasing all necessary evidence from the incident.
The campaign creator, Patrisse Cullors-Brignac of Black Lives Matter Global Network, writes in the description that she received an “urgent” call from Bennett after the alleged police assault took place.
“We’ve worked relentlessly to provide folks with emotional support and connect them to policy advocates and lawyers,” Cullors-Brignac wrote. “Yet, often our efforts to hold police accountable are prevented by the state’s lack of transparency. But for Michael’s case, transparency is the first step in the fight for justice.”
5. Bennett Has in the Past Been Outspoken About Civil Rights
When Colin Kaepernick made headlines for kneeling during the National Anthem prior to NFL games, Bennett was there to support him. Kaepernick found himself at the center of national attention by kneeling during the anthem and is currently a free agent.
On August 13, Bennett sat during the anthem prior to a preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
After the game, he told reporters that he plans to protest by sitting during the anthem all season long.
“The last week, with everything that’s been going on in the last couple months—especially after the last couple days seeing everything in (Charlottesville) Virginia…just wanted to be able to continue to use my platform to be able to speak on injustice,” Bennett said to reporters following the game. “First of all, I want to make sure that people understand I love the military. My father was in the military. I love hot dogs, like any other American. I love football like any other American,” he added. “But I don’t love segregation. I don’t love riots. I don’t love oppression. I don’t love gender slander. And I just want to see people have equality that they deserve.”
According to ESPN’s Jim Trotter, most of his teammates and officials in the organization weren’t aware of his protest, but a front office official reportedly said he was OK with his decision to do so.
Kaepernick weighed in on his thoughts on the matter along with Bennett’s account of the incident. He said that that violation that occurred against his “brother is disgusting and unjust.”