Las Vegas Metro Police Sheriff Joe Lombardo told reporters on Friday that his officers had reasonable suspicion to stop Seattle Seahawks star Michael Bennett in August after a shooting was erroneously reported following the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight.
Lombardo added his belief that race was not a factor in the incident, as has been alleged by Bennett.
‘They did what they were trained to do,’ Lombardo said of his officers during a Friday afternoon news conference in which new bodycam footage of the incident was shown.
Bennett claims he was racially profiled as he and a crowd of people ran away from the sound of gunfire in the early hours of August 27 after the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight
The footage released on Friday shows Bennett being arrested, but it does not show any officer pointing a gun at him, which Bennett had claimed previously.
However, Lombardo did concede that one of the arresting officers failed to turn on his body camera, which all officers are asked to do whenever an incident arises.
The Pro Bowl defensive end tweeted on September 5 that he was considering a civil rights lawsuit against the Las Vegas Metro Police. In a note addressed ‘Dear World,’ Bennett claimed police picked him out of a crowd that was running away from the sound of gunshots at the Cromwell Hotel & Casino. Eventually, he explained, those officers threatened to ‘blow my f****** head off’ before ultimately releasing him.
It was previously confirmed that at least one officer did draw his weapon, but it remains unclear if the gun was pointed at Bennett’s head.
On Friday, Lombardo insisted that there was ‘no evidence’ that Bennett was racially profiled by police. Lombardo claimed officers apprehended Bennett because he failed to heed their commands in the early hours of August 27, when police entered the Cromwell Hotel and Casino under the false belief there was an active shooter in the area. It was later determined that the sound of a pylon slamming into the ground was mistaken for gunshots at the time.
Bennett wrote on Twitter earlier this month that he and his lawyers are considering a lawsuit against the Las Vegas Metro Police
‘They did this because they wanted to save lives and end the threat,’ he said before showing new bodycam footage to the attending media.
‘As you will see, Mr. Bennett’s actions that night stood out to the responding officers,’ Lombardo continued. ‘To the officers, his movements and actions were different than the other patrons. Officers had reasonable suspicion to detain Mr. Bennett to determine that he was not the shooter or someone involved. The video will also show that the incident was not about race as most of the patrons were the same race as Mr. Bennett.’
Subtitled footage of the apprehension shows one officer explaining to another why they detained Bennett.
‘Yeah because when we are going through the casino, telling everybody to get down, he decided to get up and jet,’ the officer can be heard saying.
‘Mr. Bennett did not heed those directions,’ Lombardo said Friday before conceding that ‘several other people in the casino did not heed those directions.’
The LVMPD investigation is still ongoing. But as of now, Lombardo explained, he has seen no evidence that Bennett was unfairly targeted by police.
As Bennett explained previously, he was returning to his hotel from T-Mobile Arena with ‘several hundred’ other people, when everyone heard what sounded like gunshots. The pack of people ran for safety, he explained, which is when a nearby police officer ordered him to get to the ground before putting a gun near his head and threatening to kill him.
Another officer allegedly ‘jammed’ his knee to Bennett’s back ‘forcefully,’ limiting his ability to breath. Then, according to Bennett, the officers cinched handcuffs on him so tightly that his fingers ‘went numb.’
‘Hey, he’s complaining about his cuffs,’ one officer can he heard saying. ‘He didn’t really fight too much, so I am going to check his cuffs to just make sure they’re OK.’
Lombardo claimed that Bennett ran in a different direction than the rest of the crowd and jumped over a wall outside the casino, which caught the eye of officers.
Las Vegas Sheriff Joe Lombardo claims he has seen no evidence of racial profiling with Bennett
The bodycam footage released Friday shows officers explaining the apprehension
Bennett complained his cuffs were painfully tight and the officers eventually loosened them
The police ultimately confirmed Bennett’s identity with the use of a smart phone
Bennett was ultimately saved by his status as a famous NFL player, he explained, and was released before being arrested.
‘The [o]fficers 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… a famous football player,’ Bennett’s statement read.
The footage released Friday shows officers using their smartphones to find a picture of Bennett to confirm his identity as a Seahawks player.
The arresting officers have not been identified.
At several times during the encounter, Bennett can be heard saying that he didn’t understand why he was being held and that he just wanted to see his three daughters again.
Packers tight end Martellus Bennett, Michael’s brother, described the experience of learning about the incident over the phone on Instagram: ‘The emotion and the thought of almost losing you because of the way you look left me in one of the saddest places ever. I could hear the fear in your voice, the tears in your eyes as well your sprinting heart beat. I can’t imagine how the people who lost their loved ones felt when they got the call. A lot of people feel like it couldn’t happen to them because of status, neighborhood… or whatever, but [in] all honesty YOU could be next.’
Bennett is among the NFL’s most outspoken players and has routinely remained seated during the national anthem to protest police violence against minorities.
‘The system failed me,’ Bennett went on to write in his Twitter post, adding that he will continue to use his platform ‘to be able to speak to injustice.’
‘Equality,’ he explained, ‘doesn’t live in this country.’
Bennett announced the incident in a Twitter post, claiming one officer threatened to ‘blow my f****** head off.’ He went on to write that ‘equality doesn’t live in this country’
Bennett is one of several NFL players who have been protesting injustice since last season