(Reuters) - U.S. pro football player Michael Bennett accused police in Las Vegas on Wednesday of racially profiling him, saying officers handcuffed him on the ground, pointed a gun at his head and jammed a knee into his back because he is African-American.
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police said later that Bennett, a Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman, had been detained for about 10 minutes after he ran out of a nightclub where officers had responded to reports of an active shooter.
“I see no evidence that race played any role in this incident,” Las Vegas police Undersheriff Kevin McMahill told a news conference.
Bennett said on Twitter he was headed back to his hotel on Aug. 26 after a boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor when he heard what sounded like gunshots and joined others in running away. Bennett said police singled him out and ordered him to the ground.
“As I laid on the ground, complying with his commands not to move, (the officer) placed his gun near my head and warned me that if I moved he would ‘blow my fucking head off’,” Bennett wrote.
McMahill said Bennett told officers at the scene he understood why he was detained and had “no problems” with them, except for the one officer who pointed a gun at his head.
The 6-foot, 4-inch, 274-pound Bennett said a second officer jammed a knee into his back so hard it made it difficult for him to breathe before he was handcuffed. He was released after officers realized his identity, he said.
“Las Vegas police officers singled me out and pointed their guns at me for doing nothing more than simply being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Bennett, who is considering legal action.
McMahill said the arresting officer did not activate his body cam and police would review surveillance video from the nightclub as part of their investigation.
Bennett said he had retained a California civil rights attorney to investigate and may file a civil rights lawsuit.
Officials with the Seahawks could not be reached immediately for comment.
Bennett later told reporters that his encounter with police was “a traumatic experience for me and my family.”
“Do I think every police officer is bad? No, I don’t believe that. Do I believe there are some people out there who judge people on the color of their skin? I do believe that,” he said.
“I’m just focused on trying to push forward and keep continuously championing the quest for justice for people,” Bennett said.
Bennett recently declined to stand for a pre-game playing of the national anthem in the aftermath of violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, between white nationalists and counter-protesters, according to CNN.
Colin Kaepernick, a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers known for his activism, tweeted his support for Bennett on Wednesday. “This violation that happened against my Brother Michael Bennett is disgusting and unjust,” he wrote.
Reporting by Chris Kenning; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, Jonathan Oatis and Paul Tait
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