An undersheriff at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department on Wednesday disputed a claim from Seahawks player Michael Bennett that officers racially profiled him when they detained the pro athlete during an active shooter call in the Nevada city last month.
“I see no evidence that race played any role in this incident,” said Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Undersheriff Kevin McMahill during a press conference that was livestreamed.
Bennett posted a message on Twitter this morning describing an encounter with police after the McGregor-Mayweather fight on August 26. In the message, Bennett claims he and other casino patrons were running away from what sounded like a gunshot when Las Vegas police officers pointed guns at him “for doing nothing more than simply being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time."
One officer allegedly placed a gun by Bennett’s head and threatened to “blow [his] fucking head off.” Another officer, Bennett claimed, “jammed” a knee in his back. The football player has retained a prominent civil rights attorney to explore legal options, including a potential civil rights lawsuit.
During the press conference, McMahill announced that the department’s internal affairs unit had opened an investigation of the incident and said there are at least 126 videos that captured relevant footage from the evening. Recordings from a dozen body cameras will be under review, although the officer that handcuffed Bennett did not have his camera activated at the time.
McMahill said during the press conference that, on the night of Bennett’s detainment, Las Vegas police responded to a report of an active shooter situation at a casino, though the department later determined that no shots were fired at the venue that night. When officers encountered Bennett crouching behind a gaming machine, the football player took off, jumped over a wall and ran into a street, according to McMahill. An officer handcuffed him on the street before detaining him for ten minutes.
"Due to Bennett’s actions and the information the officers had at the time, they believed Bennett might’ve been involved in the shooting and they gave chase,” McMahill said.
McMahill played video from the commanding officer who led officers that responded to the call.
The video, which starts at about 6:50 in the clip above, shows several officers entering the casino as throngs of patrons flee in a state of pandemonium. Other patrons are crouched on the ground as officers run through the casino. At about 11:50, the officer who is wearing the camera can be seen following another officer who says that pointing to a man, apparently Bennett, running out of a casino door. From the body camera’s vantage point, it’s impossible to see what happens between this moment and Bennett’s detainment, as the officer wearing the camera walks by a wall obscuring the encounter. At about 12:15, the video shows Bennett getting handcuffed, face down on the street, with cars visible in the background. McMahill stops the video right after that. (TMZ this morning published a much shorter video of this moment from a different perspective.)
The footage shown does not answer the question of whether an officer pointed a gun near Bennett’s head or threatened to shoot him. It also doesn’t show whether an officer kneed him in the back. McMahill said those claims will be addressed in the investigation.
McMahill said that neither officer involved in the incident has been removed from active duty. When asked whether the department plans to release the names of the officers, he said that has not been determined.
When McMahill denied that racial-bias played a role in Bennett’s detainment, he noted that officers “were able to safely evacuate many patrons of all races.” He also noted that both the officers in question are “Hispanic in origin.”
John Burris, the attorney representing Bennett, did not immediately respond to request for comment. I will update this post if his office releases a statement.