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Michael Bennett: Police singled me out, put a gun near my head

By Jill Martin, CNN | 9/13/2017, 7:54 a.m.
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, who is among prominent NFL players who protest the national anthem before games, said ...
Michael Bennett

(CNN) -- Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, who is among prominent NFL players who protest the national anthem before games, said police in Las Vegas unfairly singled him out, threatened him with a gun and detained him briefly after he attended last month's prizefight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor.

Bennett shared his account in a letter he posted Wednesday on Twitter.

As he was leaving a party at the casino and heading home, he said he heard what sounded like gunshots. While he and others ran for cover, Las Vegas police officers pointed guns at him "for doing nothing more than simply being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time," he wrote.

One pointed a gun at his head while another pinned him to the ground before they handcuffed him and placed him in a squad car, he said. They released him upon learning who he was, but left him feeling as though "the system had failed me," he wrote on Twitter.

The Las Vegas Police Department confirmed that officers detained Bennett for 10 minutes and released him. They were responding to a call of battery and assault with a gun that had turned into an active shooter situation, Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said Wednesday.

Based on the information they had at the time, they believed Bennett may have been involved in the shooting and pursued him, McMahill said. Given the circumstances, McMahill said he saw "no evidence that race played a role in this incident."

'Emotionally traumatic event,' lawyer says

Bennett has hired civil rights attorney John Burris, who on Wednesday called the officers' actions "outrageous, and exhibit A as to how every black man rich, famous or poor, unarmed and innocent can be falsely detained, arrested or even shot and killed by the police," according to a statement.

Bennett, a father of three, feared for his life when he was detained, Burris told CNN.

"He was jumped, if you will, by these officers and told to get on the ground and, certainly, at gunpoint, it was uncalled for, it was an emotionally traumatic event," the attorney said. "You are placed in a position where your life can be in danger. If you make any sudden moves that could be misinterpreted by the police officers, you can lose your life."

In his account, Bennett said that as he lay on the ground, complying with his commands not to move, the officer placed his gun near his head and warned him that if he moved he would "blow my (expletive) head off."

While he was "terrified and confused by what was taking place," a second officer came over and "forcefully jammed his knee into my back making it difficult for me to breathe," he wrote. "They then cinched the handcuffs on my wrists so tight that my fingers went numb," he continued.

"The officers' excessive use of force was unbearable," Bennett continued. "I felt helpless as I lay there on the ground handcuffed facing the real-life threat of being killed. 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.'"