Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett turned himself in on Monday after a grand jury indicted him on a felony charge of injury to the elderly connected to an incident at NRG stadium following the Super Bowl this year. The charge, which includes “intentionally and knowingly, causing bodily injury to a person 65 years or older,” carries a penalty of as much as 10 years in prison as well as a $10,000 fine.
At a press conference Friday, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo described what took place following the Eagles’ victory at Super Bowl LI, which included Bennett allegedly shoving a 66-year-old paraplegic black female stadium employee, resulting in an injury to her shoulder:
Mr. Bennett forcibly opened the locked doors at the southwest corner of the NRG Budweiser tunnels even though security stated he did not have access to the tunnels to get to the field. In an attempt to push his way and force his way into the field … he pushed back one white female who was 28 years of age and pushed back another male individual. Mr. Bennett then went up to a 66-year-old black female employee of the NRG, a paraplegic, and pushed her.
Mr. Bennett’s assault on this individual actually caused injury; according to medical records, a sprain of her shoulder. Mr. Bennett then continued to try to get onto the field, at which time one of our officers, Officer Morgan, from our eastside division, who was actually working at the stadium providing security, who witnessed the incident, attempted to contact Mr. Bennett and actually tried to stop him and question him. Mr. Bennett disregarded Officer Morgan, said, “F*** you,” and walked past him on the field. Mr. Bennett, also, after pushing the females, both the 28-year-old white female and the 66-year-old paraplegic black female, stated to them, “You all must know who I am; and I can own this m.f. m*****f*****. I’m going onto the field whether you like it or not.”
After the Harris County jury indicted Bennett, a warrant for his arrest was issued on Friday. On Monday, Bennett appeared in court in Houston, where bond was set at $10,000, ESPN reports. The NFL star will be allowed to travel in the Houston area and home to Hawaii while the legal process plays out.
Eagles executives say they didn’t learn of the charges until Friday, insisting they did not withhold information concerning the incident. Vice President of Football Operations Howie Roseman urged people not to rush to judgment. “I think we’re in a great country, and in this country, people are presumed innocent, and I think we have to be fair about that in all these matters,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair in any situation to not give people the right to present their side. I don’t want to get into this, but our overriding philosophy on things are people are innocent until proven guilty.”
Bennett caused a stir last fall when he accused two Las Vegas police officers of racially profiling him. An investigation into the incident found his allegations to be unfounded.
In a social media post in early September, Bennett, then playing for the Seahawks, accused Las Vegas police officers of arresting and using excessive force against him “for doing nothing more than being a black man at the wrong place at the wrong time”:
On Saturday, August 26, 2016, I was in Las Vegas to attend the Mayweather-McGregor fight on my day off. After the fight while heading back to my hotel several hundred people heard what sounded like gun shots. Like many of the people in the area I ran away from the sound, looking for safety. Las Vegas police officers singled me out and pointed their guns at me for doing nothing more than being a black man at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Bennett claimed an officer told him he was going to “blow my f***ing head off” and “forcefully jammed his knee” into his back. Bennett said he was handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car until they determined that he wasn’t a threat. Bennett went on to connect the incident to what he described as systemic racism in law enforcement, which he said is the reason he was participating in the national anthem protests.
But the Las Vegas police department presented a different story, including video evidence: There was no “racial profiling” by the officers; instead, the officers, who happened to be Hispanic, had temporarily detained Bennett because he ran from police when they approached him.
“I can tell you as I stand here today, I see no evidence of [racial profiling]. I see no evidence that race played any role in this incident,” LVMPD representative Kevin McMahill said at a press conference in September. “As [officers] moved toward the nightclub, an individual later identified as Bennett was seen crouched down behind a gaming machine as the officers approached. Once Bennett was in the officer’s view, he quickly ran out the south doors, jumped over a wall onto Flamingo Road East of Las Vegas Boulevard into traffic.”
“Due to Bennett’s actions, and the information the officers had at the time, they believed that Bennett may have been involved in the shooting and they gave chase,” McMahill explained. “Bennett was placed in handcuffs and detained while officers determined whether or not he was involved in the incident.”
An investigation into the incident resulted in the confirmation of McMahill’s account and the complete vindication of the officers. Las Vegas Sheriff Joe Lombardo said in a press conference in late September that the investigation found that the officers “acted appropriately and professionally” and would not face any disciplinary action.