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Police open internal probe into Bennett incident

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  • By Around The NFL staff NFL.com
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Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett is considering filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Dept. for allegedly using excessive force on him as they investigated an incident at a casino last month.

In a statement posted to Twitter on Wednesday morning, Bennett described the chaotic situation he was involved in on the way back to his hotel early on the morning of Sunday, Aug. 27 following the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight. He said police singled him out among a group of people who were fleeing away from what sounded like gunshots. Bennett said a police officer ordered him to the ground, pointed a gun at his head and told him not to move or he would "blow my [expletive] head off." Bennett said a second officer forcefully jammed his knee into his back, making it difficult for him to breathe, before handcuffing him and eventually putting him in the back of a police car.

"I felt helpless as I lay there on the ground handcuffed facing the real-life threat of being killed," Bennett wrote. "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? I kept asking the officers 'What did I do?' and reminding them that I had rights they were duty bound to respect. 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 an eternity until they apparently realized I was not a thug, common criminal or ordinary black man but Michael Bennett a famous professional football player."

Bennett was not arrested or charged in the matter.

Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, Kevin McMahill, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Dept. undersheriff, said officers were responding to a call of an active shooter in a nightclub at The Cromwell Hotel and Casino when they encountered Bennett amid large groups of people running for cover and hiding in the casino. Officers later determined no shooting occurred.

"As they moved toward the nightclub, an individual later identified as Bennett was seen crouched down behind a gaming machine as the officers approached," McMahill said. "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 Blvd. into traffic. Due to Bennett's actions and the information the officers had at the time, they believed Bennett may have been involved in the shooting and they gave chase. Bennett was placed into handcuffs and detained while officers determined whether or not he was involved in the original incident. He was detained for approximately 10 minutes and released. Mr. Bennett, at the scene, had the incident explained to him by a supervisor and he said that he understood and that he had no problem with what the officers did, just the one that he claimed the officer had pointed a gun at his head."

McMahill said the arresting officer did not have his bodycamera turned on at the time of Bennett's detainment. He confirmed the department has opened an internal affairs investigation and asked for Bennett and his legal counsel to provide the department with a formal statement. McMahill also denied that officers singled out Bennett because of his race.

"I can tell you as I stand here today that I see no evidence of that. I see no evidence that race played any role in this incident," McMahill said. "While officers were searching the casino, they were able to safely evacuate many patrons of all races."

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Bennett called the matter "a traumatic experience for me and my family." On Friday, Bennett's attorneys called for an independent investigation of the incident.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a message of support for Bennett:

"Michael Bennett represents the best of the NFL -- a leader on his team and in his community. Our foremost concern is the welfare of Michael and his family. Whille we understand the Las Vegas police department will address this later this evening, the issues Michael has been raising deserve serious attention from all of our leaders in every community. We will support Michael and all NFL players in promoting mutual respect between law enforcement and the communities they loyally serve and fair and equal treatment under law."

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll also supported Bennett when he spoke with reporters Wednesday.

"What happened with Michael is a classic illustration of the reality of inequalities that are demonstrated daily," Carroll said. "May this incident inspire all of us to respond with compassion when inequalities are brought to light and allow us to have the courage to stand for change. We can do better than this."

The incident occurred nearly two weeks after Bennett first sat during the national anthem before a preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams to raise awareness to racism and violence in the wake of the events in Charlottesville, Virginia. Bennett said he plans to sit during the anthem all season.

"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," Bennett wrote. "The system failed me. I can only imagine what Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, and Charleena Lyles felt."

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