The attorney for Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett called for an independent investigation of the Las Vegas Metro Police Department after Bennett's claims of racial profiling and police brutality.
“Over the last several days, the Las Vegas Metro Police Department and its union have begun a smear campaign aimed at demonizing and besmirching the character of Michael Bennett,” Oakland-based civil rights attorney John Burris wrote in news release obtained by USA TODAY Sports and other outlets on Friday. “This victim-shaming is a common tactic used by the police when they are caught violating a person’s rights.”
Messages left by USA TODAY Sports to Las Vegas Police were not returned on Friday afternoon.
Burris took particular aim at a news conference led by undersheriff Kevin McMahill on Wednesday, hours after Bennett made public his allegations of what transpired in the early morning hours of Aug. 27. McMahill told reporters that there was “no evidence that race played any role in this incident."
On Thursday, Steve Grammas, president of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, asked NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to take "appropriate action" over Bennett's allegations of racial profiling. The NFL rebuffed the request later Thursday.
USA TODAY Sports reported Thursday that the Las Vegas police were investigating an altercation possibly involving Bennett that may have occurred before police responded to The Cromwell Hotel & Casino for what turned out to be a false report of gunfire.
“Now, LVMPD claims they are investigating whether Mr. Bennett was involved in an altercation immediately before the incident,” Burris wrote. “Mr. Bennett unequivocally denies this trumped up, red-herring type allegation. Mr. Bennett’s message is clear and resounding: He, nor anyone else similarly situated, should be treated in this manner, and he firmly believes this type of misconduct and abuse should not be condoned by LVMPD, the LVMPD Police Union or the public.”
Burris said he’s attempted to get the body-camera footage and other information from police starting on Aug. 29, two days after the incident.
“After not receiving a response within the statutory time period, on the morning of Sept. 6, 2017, Mr. Bennett’s legal representatives made yet another request to schedule a meeting to see the body camera footage,” Burris wrote. “It was only after 5 p.m. on Sept. 6, 2017, did Mr. Bennett’s representatives finally receive a response to his numerous requests.”
McMahill showed some body-cam footage, but said the officer who initiated contact with Bennett did not have his camera activated.
"It is Mr. Bennett’s hope that for the sake of justice and goodwill, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department will be more transparent regarding this incident by releasing all video footage of the incident and the 911 calls, as well as providing the names of the arresting officers and ceasing and desisting from making misleading public statements," Burris wrote.
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