Las Vegas police reveal details from Michael Bennett encounter
Sep 29, 2017, 1:12 PM | Updated: Dec 19, 2017, 5:27 pm
Saying officers “were heroic” on the night Seahawks Michael Bennett was detained in Las Vegas, Sheriff Joseph Lombardo revealed additional footage from the incident.
“The incident was not about race, as most of the patrons were the same race as Mr. Bennett,” the sheriff said. “…The officer that took Mr. Bennett into custody is Hispanic, the other officer is Hispanic, and the officer wearing the body camera is a black male.”
Sheriff Lombardo laid out a narrative from the officers’ perspective while stressing that there is no evidence to show any use of force was racially motivated.
“While I’m responding because of the allegations Mr. Bennett made, I’m not here to disparage him,” Lombardo said. “As often, in any case, there are two sides to any story. Mr. Bennett has a valid perspective … those who experience such a stop, especially having not committed a crime, are likely not to feel good about it.”
“As you will see, Mr. Bennett’s actions that night stood out to the officers,” he said. “His movements and actions were different than others’ … officers had reasonable cause to stop Mr. Bennett.”
Lombardo showed footage detailing the incidents of that night, starting with video of the defensive end for the Seahawks entering The Cromwell and Drai’s Nightclub. The sheriff said that he attempted to enter via the VIP line. After he entered the club, other patrons got into a fight, causing a commotion and knocking over stanchions. At the same time, a separate fight broke out elsewhere in the club, also knocking over stanchions.
The sheriff believes the sound of the stanchions hitting the ground sounded like gunshots, resulting in reports of gunfire. The crowd can be seen on video responding to the sounds by crouching and laying on the ground.
Lombardo said people were instructed not to run. He showed video of a figure he says is Bennett crouching and rushing behind slot machines, then separate video of the figure running out of the hotel. The sheriff then said Bennett jumped over a concrete wall and down onto the sidewalk where an officer brought him to the ground.
This is when the officer’s gun can be seen through body cam footage of another pursuing officer. Lombardo said that the officer’s gun was drawn, but there is no evidence to confirm that it was put to the player’s head, as alleged, or that the officer said he would blow his head off. Lombardo said that while that language would not be acceptable, it is not a violation of policy.
The sheriff also confirmed that the officer with his gun drawn forgot to turn his body camera on, therefore, there is no up-close account of their interaction at that time.
Video then shows Bennett being escorted into the backseat of a patrol car while he pleads with officers, asking why he is being detained and if he is being arrested.
“Nobody can tell me what I did,” Bennett said. “Take me out of the car, man.”
Bennett said he was running, as many others were, and said he has three daughters at home.
“Please un-cuff me,” Bennett said. “Can I just talk to you about it because I didn’t do anything … tell me what I’m being detained for … he said, ‘Why you running?’ I said, ‘Somebody’s shooting, man.’ I got three daughters, I want to go home and see my kids.”
“The officers did not know who Mr. Bennett was, they just reacted to this suspicious actions,” Lombardo said.
The entire incident, Lombardo said, took 10 minutes with Bennett spending seven minutes in the back of the car. Bennett complained his handcuffs were too tight, and an officer can be seen on the video loosening the cuffs.
“As soon as officers realized no probable cause for Mr. Bennett’s detention, he was released,” Lombardo said.
“During the release, officers explained the detention and apologized for the detention,” he said.
Bennett was eventually taken out of the car. Officers asked for his name and also asked him to relate what he saw happen in the hotel.
“My name is Michael Bennett, Seattle Seahawks, look it up,” Bennett can be heard on the video.
Two other men were detained at the same time; a Hispanic man and a black man.
Nearly a week after the encounter, Bennett posted a letter on social media claiming the incident was racially motivated, and that the officer put a gun to his head and said he would blow his head off. Lombardo said this prompted his office to investigate the detention.