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Las Vegas Police: Racial profiling not a factor in Michael Bennett incident

September 7 2017 1:43 AM

A Las Vegas police department spokesman said race was not a factor in the detainment of Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett last month. 

Undersheriff Kevin McMahill was responding to Bennett, who took to Twitter and claimed police threatened to shoot him for "simply for being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time" following an incident in Las Vegas.

Police were responding to reports of an active shooter at a Las Vegas casino in the hours following the boxing bout between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather Jr. As police arrived at the scene, they were met with several people fleeing the casino. 

McMahill said an officer saw Bennett crouched down behind a gaming machine and started to run after seeing police. Officers then began to give chase, leading to one officer and the Seahawks star going over a wall and landing on the sidewalk. 

Due to his actions, McMahill said police believed he may have involved in the reported shooting. Further investigation revealed there was no actual shooting and patrons were frightened by what had been a loud noise inside the casino. 

Bennett was briefly detained at the police department and McMahill said he had no issue with being taken into custody, but did have issue with the manner in which he was detained by the arresting officer. 

"I see no evidence that race played any role in this incident," McMahill said of the August 27 event during a news conference on Wednesday.

McMahill reiterated there was no evidence of racial profiling and that both arresting officers are of Hispanic descent. An investigation has been opened, which will include pulling footage of body camera, but that will take "significant effort and time."

The arresting officer did not activate his body camera and his reasons for not doing so will also be part of the investigation. No police officer has yet been suspended and all remain on active duty. In addition to the 126 videos, the Las Vegas PD already has, McMahill asked the public to submit any related videos to help with the investigation. 

"If the investigation reveals any violations of policy occurred, the officers will be held accountable," McMahill said. "As this case moves forward and we conduct a review of the videos, we'll have a more complete idea of what happened."

McMahill played a video that lasted almost six minutes showing police arriving at the casino and arresting Bennett, who released a statement earlier Wednesday on Twitter saying he was "singled out for being a black man" and is considering filing a civil rights lawsuit.

Bennett said he had left T-Mobile Arena to return to his hotel when he and "several hundred" others in the area heard what sounded like gunshots and began to run for safety. He said a police officer in the area stopped him and ordered him to get on the ground, then put a gun to his head and explicitly threatened to shoot him if he moved. Bennett said a second officer then "forcefully jammed his knee" into his back as they handcuffed him.

Bennett said he repeatedly asked officers what he had done and they told him to shut up. They eventually released him after confirming his identity but "without any legitimate justification for the officers' abusive conduct."

"Obviously, I hate to be up here through these circumstances," Bennett said Wednesday during a brief news conference. "It's a traumatic experience for me and my family, and it sucks that in the country that we live in now, sometimes you get profiled for the colour of your skin. It's a tough situation for me.

"Do I think every police officer is bad? No, I don't believe that. Do I believe there's some people out there that judge people on the colour of their skin? I do believe that, and I'm just focused on trying to push forward and keep continuously championing the quest for justice for people, keep pushing [for] equality for oppressed people. That's just what I'm about and what I'm going to keep doing."

The NFL released a statement on Wednesday, saying Bennett is "a leader on his team and in his community" and the league "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 the law."

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