Michael Bennett has retained a civil-right attorney and is considering filing a lawsuit against police officers in Las Vegas for forcing him to the ground and pointing a gun near his head during an incident there he says he had nothing to do with.
That is according to an open letter that begins “Dear World” posted on the Seahawks Pro Bowl defensive end’s social-media account Wednesday morning.
Bennett writes he was in Las Vegas for the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor championship fight on Aug. 26. After the fight, Bennett said he and “hundreds” of others around him heard what sounded like gunshots while he was going back to his hotel.
“Las Vegas police officers singled me out and pointed their guns at me for doing nothing more than simply being a black man at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Bennett writes.
He said a police officer ordered him to the ground, and he complied. Then, Bennett writes, the officer “placed his gun near my head and warned me that if I move he would ‘blow my (expletive) head off.’ Bennett goes on to describe a second officer forcefully jamming his knee into Bennett’s back “making it difficult for me to breathe.” He said the handcuffs officers applied to him were so tight his fingers went numb, before he was taken to the back of a police car “where I sat for what felt like an eternity” despite Bennett telling officers he had rights the officers were “duty bound to respect.”
“I felt helpless as I laid there on the ground handcuffed facing the real-life threat of being killed,” Bennett writes. “All I could think of was ‘I’m going to die for no other reason than I am black and my skin color is somehow a threat.’”
Bennett said only after confirming his identity did officers release him “without any legitimate justification for the Officers’ abusive conduct.”
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department issued a statement later Wednesday morning that “this case is under investigation. Reserve judgment. We will address this publicly today.”
TMZ released a video of the incident:
Bennett writes he has retained Oakland civil-right attorney John Burris to explore all his legal options regarding the incident “including filing a civil right lawsuit for the violation of my Constitutional rights.”
Burris released a statement calling on the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department to release video taken from the body cameras of the officers in question regarding Bennett’s accusations. Burris said Bennett believes “the system failed me.”
Bennett’s brother, Green Bay Packers tight end Martellus Bennett, posted on Instagram that the call he got from Michael moments after the incident he described “was a scary one. 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,” Martellus Bennett wrote. “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 ("(that) only happens in the hood") or whatever, but it all honesty YOU could be next. I COULD BE NEXT. YOUR SON, DAUGHTER, BROTHER, FATHER, GRANDPA, SISTER, COUSIN could be next...”
Michael Bennett has been increasingly active in social-equality and civil-rights issues for the last year. That includes his ongoing protest of the treatment of minorities in America by sitting during the national anthem immediately before Seahawks games.
Colin Kaepernick, the unemployed, former Super Bowl quarterback who protested equality issues and excessive force last NFL season by sitting during anthems, posted on Twitter his support for Bennett Wednesday.
“This violation that happened against my Brother Michael Bennett is disgusting and unjust. I stand with Michael and I stand with the people,” Kaepernick wrote.
Bennett has publicly supported the causes the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback has been championing.