Convicted former Inkster police Officer William Melendez suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and “has no idea why he assaulted and seriously injured a citizen that posed no meaningful threat to him or his partner,” according to a parole report.
The PTSD was caused by his time in the military and years as a cop, prison authorities said in the report on Melendez as he awaits a final decision on when he will be released from prison and put on early parole.
The 13-page document, obtained by The Detroit News through a Freedom of Information Act request, offers a first glimpse into Melendez’s thoughts about his beating of Floyd Dent, an African-American motorist, on a dark Inkster street in January 2015.
The dashcam video of the beating went viral and created a firestorm of controversy over Melendez’s handling of the police stop. The incident was compared to numerous police stops across the country involving mostly white police officers and African-American males.
Melendez, who is serving his sentence of 13 months to 10 years at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia, was interviewed by prison staff and parole board members. The questioning was part of their decision-making process into whether the former veteran police officer should be released from prison at least three months early.
Melendez says he assaulted Dent, a Detroit autoworker, because, the report says, he was “trying to protect his fellow officers and in accordance with Inkster police protocol.” Melendez has alleged Dent “threatened to kill him and his partner,” but after reviewing the facts of the case, “Melendez indicated that he handled the situation poorly and if he had a chance to do it over again he would,” the report says.
During his sentencing hearing in February, Melendez spoke about the experience of being an officer in high-crime areas, saying “emotionally (the job) becomes a part of you” and that as a result of being a police officer who has witnessed senseless acts of violence “the more we witness and investigate, the more it takes from us.”
Post-traumatic stress disorder can occur when someone experiences a traumatic incident. It is a treatable condition through counseling or medication.
Dent’s attorney, Gregory Rohl, says he doesn’t think Melendez should be paroled early from his sentence on assault and misconduct charges.
“He was given 13 months to 10 years for the brutality evidenced on the video, and he compounded his attack by planting cocaine and making fun of Floyd after the fact,” Rohl said. “It seems very preferential and, if the roles were reversed, I’m sure Floyd would not have enjoyed such a reprieve.”
A jury acquitted Melendez of strangulation.
Melendez, 48, could be sent back home within a few weeks to live with his wife, Kerry, a Detroit police officer who is on disability, as part of his parole despite the Wayne County prosecutor’s opposition. He will be turned over to the jurisdiction of the Michigan Parole Board next month. He must complete prerelease programs before he is released to the custody of his wife, said a spokesman for the MDOC’s parole board.
The report says Melendez has a pension with the Detroit Police Department that he will be able to collect when he turns 62. He said he would resume work as CEO of Strategic Security, an executive protection company, and manage a cleaning business he will run from his home, according to the report.
He also plans to work with several unnamed foundations with which he has a past relationship. The report also indicates he has support from his family and within the community.
At least one parole board member expressed reluctance about Melendez’s release, saying while the former police officer accepts responsibility ... “he admits his behavior was inappropriate.” Barbara Sampson added she doesn’t believe he is ready to be let out of prison.
“Mr. Melendez’s lack of understanding of his criminal behavior is unacceptable and leads me to question his statement that something like this will never happen again. I do not support a parole at this time,” Sampson wrote in the report dated Oct. 24.
According to the report, Melendez has incurred no “tickets” or infractions while incarcerated. He “recognizes value of good behavior.”
Board member Sonia Warchock found Melendez “has no idea why he assaulted and seriously injured a citizen that posed no threat to him or his partner” and “his lack of his criminal behavior leads me to doubt his statement that something like this will never happen again.”
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has expressed strong objections to Melendez’s parole. In October, Worthy sent Michigan Department of Corrections a four-page letter asking it to reconsider the decision to parole Melendez on Dec. 15.
Worthy said Dent “was treated with excessive brutality.” He reportedly was struck 16 times in the head by Melendez.
“The video admitted at trial shows the defendant using excessive force to brutalize Mr. Dent,” Worthy wrote in her letter. “Mr. Dent was unarmed, never fought back, never struck (Melendez) and was unsuccessful in attempting to protect himself from the defendant’s unrelenting attack.”