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Las Vegas police union: Seahawks' Michael Bennett made false claims, defamed cops

Seattle Seahawks center Justin Britt, right, stands next to defensive end Michael Bennett as Bennett sits on the bench during the singing of the national anthem before the team's NFL football preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

LAS VEGAS - The president of the Las Vegas police union Thursday accused Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett of making false accusations against the officers who arrested him at gunpoint during an August incident and asked that the NFL commissioner launch an investigation.

In a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Las Vegas police union president Steve Grammas wrote that Bennett's description of his arrest Aug. 27 after the Mayweather-McGregor fight is "false and defamatory."

Bennett described the arrest in an open letter posted Wednesday. He said Las Vegas police who were responding to a false alarm about a shooting ordered him to the ground at gunpoint, handcuffed him, assaulted him and threatened to shoot him in the head. Bennett says he was unarmed, sober and returning to his hotel after the fight when the arrest happened.

"Las Vegas 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," Bennett wrote in his open letter, adding that he was running from the area, like everyone else around him, after hearing what they thought were gunshots.

But Grammas, in his letter to Goodell, wrote that Bennett was acting suspiciously and that officers were justified in detaining him as they responded to the report of gunshots. He wrote that Bennett was "hiding behind a slot machine," then bolted out of the casino, leaped over a barrier wall and "hid from officers as he crouched close to a wall."

He said the officers therefore had reasonable suspicion to detain Bennett to see if he had any connection to the shooting. Las Vegas Undersheriff Kevin McMahill gave a similar description of the incident during a Wednesday night press conference.

"On behalf of the rank and file members of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, I request that you conduct an investigation, and take appropriate action, into Michael Bennett's obvious false accusations against our police officers," Grammas wrote to Goodell.

Bennett has been one of the most vocal players in the NFL about the protests started by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, which began in opposition to the unequal treatment of minorities by law enforcement. He has recently remained seated during the national anthem before Seahawks games.

In his letter to Goodell, the police union president wrote, "While the NFL may condone Bennett's disrespect for our American flag, and everything it symbolizes, we hope the league will not ignore Bennett's false accusations."

Goodell has not responded to Grammas' letter. But he earlier released a statement saying, "Michael Bennett represents the best of the NFL - a leader on his team and in his community. ... The issues Michael has been raising deserve serious attention from all our leaders in every community. We will support Michael and all NFL players in promoting mutual respect between law enforcement and the communities they loyally serve and fair and equal treatment under the law."

Bennett has retained attorney John Burris and is exploring his options, including the possible filing of a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Las Vegas.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Burris said, "We think there was an unlawful detention and the use of excessive force, with a gun put to (Bennett's) head. He was just in the crowd. He doesn't drink or do drugs. He wasn't in a fight. He wasn't resisting. He did nothing more or less than anyone in the crowd."

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