Las Vegas Sun

July 18, 2019

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Lots of unanswered questions for Metro Police after Michael Bennett incident

Police Respond to Allegations of Excessive Force

Steve Marcus

Undersheriff Kevin McMahill watches police body camera video during a news conference at Metro Police Headquarters Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. Metro Police called the news conference to respond to allegations of excessive force by Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett.

Perhaps the proof will emerge in the coming days. Perhaps a justification for their actions will pop up on a random iPhone or unchecked security camera.

Until then, here's the review for Las Vegas Metro Police's explanation for detaining Michael Bennett outside Drai's Nightclub last month: Not good enough.

On Wednesday morning, Bennett took to Twitter to describe a terrifying run-in he had Aug. 27 with the Las Vegas police a few hours after the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight. He wrote how he began running after hearing what sounded like gun shots, and was then ordered to the ground by an officer who held a gun to his head and told him he would "blow my (expletive) head off."

Bennett, who said his life flashed before his eyes, added that he had been singled out for "simply being a black man" and was set free only when the cops realized he was an NFL star. Shortly after his tweet, TMZ Sports released video of Bennett being handcuffed.

Though clearly frightened, Bennett appeared composed and referred to the officer as "sir" throughout the ordeal. And when meeting with the media Wednesday at the Seahawks' facility in Renton, he emphasized that there are plenty of good cops out there.

But he also seemed to still be shaken up, as he had to remove himself from the podium and end the Q&A while talking about his daughters. Anyone on hand could tell you it was sincere.

Countering Bennett's account, however, was a TMZ Sports report that said the cops looking into the alleged shooting had told everyone in the club to "get down and not move so they could properly search and investigate." The report added that Bennett did not stay put — but instead ran — forcing a cop outside the club to stop him at gunpoint and order him to the ground.

Later in the day, Metro undersheriff Kevin McMahill said, "I see no evidence that race played any role in this incident." Except the presentation that followed did little to prove that.

McMahill said the department was in the process of reviewing video from 126 cameras surrounding the scene, but added that the arresting officer's body camera had not been activated. Hence the report that Bennett had disobeyed a cop's command could not be confirmed visually.

But then McMahill presented another video that, based on the buildup, sounded as though it would exonerate the officers. All it actually did was confuse anybody watching it.

For five minutes, officers were shown storming through the Cromwell casino chasing what they thought was an active shooter. Dozens, if not hundreds, of people were seen running, but nobody was detained.

It wasn't until the end of the footage — which did not show Bennett running — that you could see him on the ground with a gun pointed at him. The question is — why?

Actually, there are a few questions on this case that have yet to be answered.

For instance: Why detain Bennett when no description of a suspect was given? (McMahill couldn't answer this when asked by reporters Wednesday.) Who, if anybody else, was cuffed by the police as they made their way through the casino?

If the answer is nobody, is there an explanation why a large black man was the only one targeted? And what is protocol when it comes to an officer turning on his body camera?

There might be sufficient answers to all of these queries, but they haven't emerged yet. Metro might be proven to be above board in the end, but for now, it is below satisfactory.

McMahill noted that the two officers who detained Bennett were of Hispanic origin, but that doesn't excuse prejudice or profiling. Through one day, the grade for this department is incomplete.

Bennett, who has been sitting during the national anthem throughout the preseason, said this is the reason he does it. As ardent of a civil-rights advocate as you'll find in the NFL, he has now endured an experience that personalizes his message.

A lot of people have been turned off by his pregame demonstrations, and will continue to be in the foreseeable future.

But unless Metro Police can offer more specifics, there might be a lot more players joining Bennett in protest.