Dozens protest rough arrest of man by Inkster police

Holly Fournier, Candice Williams, and Charles E. Ramirez

Inkster — Tears streamed down Floyd Dent's face Wednesday as he described how Inkster police officers pulled him from his vehicle during a traffic stop captured on patrol car video one late January night and began beating him.

"They told me get on the ground, then they snatched me, threw me on the ground and started beating me," Dent said outside his attorney's law office in Novi. "(An officer) was beating me upside the head. ... While he was beating me I was trying to protect my face with my right arm. ... The officer nearly choked me to death. I told them I can't breathe. He just kept on choking me."

Dent, 57, said he also was Tasered during the arrest Jan. 28 in front of the former Inkster police station, and that he was targeted because he is African-American.

The incident has sparked cries of aggressive policing, led to calls for disbanding the department and prompted the regional leader of a civil rights organization to call Inkster "the new Ferguson" in reference to a recent scathing Department of Justice report that called Ferguson, Missouri's law enforcement practices racially discriminatory.

Michigan State Police are investigating the arrest, Lt. Michael Shaw said.

"We have been asked by the Inkster police to conduct an investigation," he said Tuesday. "We are in the process of doing that now. Once it is completed, we will forward the results to the Wayne County prosecutor for their review."

One of the officers involved in the incident was placed on administrative duty; the other officer remains on duty, said Inkster Police Chief Vicki Yost. She declined to identify the officers Wednesday. State police troopers also responded to Inkster officers' call for backup, said Shaw.

"It's an ongoing investigation and we're waiting for the results of the investigation," Yost said. "We're not scared of the facts. We'll follow them wherever they go and we'll take the appropriate action."

The incident, which was captured by a police in-car camera, came to light this week when Dent's attorney released it to the media.

The protest was organized by the Michigan chapter of the National Action Network, led by the Rev. Charles Williams II.

Dent, a Detroit resident, was pulled over after officers observed him driving through an area of high drug activity, said Dent's attorney, Greg Rohl.

"He's physically extracted from the vehicle, he's thrown to the ground and he's pummeled by no fewer than 16 head shots, three kick and four Tasers, implemented by various officers," Rohl said.

Rohl said the video shows that 2.3 seconds elapsed from the time Dent was pulled from the car and when he was first hit in the head.

"I don't see how you can resist in 2.3 seconds," said Rohl.

"The officer saw him allegedly through binoculars at 600 yards and determined ... that he saw some kind of criminal activity because of my client's presence in an area of high drug activity," Rohl said earlier this week. "He targeted (Dent) and had the intention of pulling him over all along. He said that on the stand, under oath (during Dent's preliminary examination)."

Dent pulled over in front of the city's old police station, Rohl said.

"Immediately (the officer) comes out with his gun drawn," Rohl said. "There turned out to be nine white officers at the scene at the end of it."

During the arrest, another Inkster police officer Tasered Dent multiple times during the struggle, Rohl said.

"(Dent) had a orbital fracture and blood on the brain," the attorney said.

In the video, Dent is shown driving slowly in front of a police car with its flashing lights engaged.

"Police allege that (Dent) fled and alluded and resisted," Rohl said. "The video shows that he's traveling at 25 miles per hour and keeps going straight until he gets to a well lit area. I guess he hoped that that would help him, but it didn't."

Moments after Dent stopped his vehicle, an officer approached with his gun drawn and pointed at the ground. When Dent opeed the driver's side door, the officer pointed his weapon at Dent while he and another officer rushed to pull Dent from the vehicle.

The officer holstered his weapon and appeared to place Dent in a chokehold before delivering multiple blows to the head.

Dent originally was charged with resisting and obstructing, fleeing and eluding, and possession of cocaine, Rohl said. All charges have been dropped, except the possession charge. Rohl said the drugs were planted during the chaotic arrest.

"I tested my client ... and he tested negative for everything," Rohl said. "He doesn't sell drugs and he doesn't do drugs."

Dent said he was offered a plea deal, but he declined.

"He told me an innocent man does not plead guilty," Rohl said. "Mr. Dent, to his credit, said I'm not guilty. I'm not pleading guilty. Take it to trial."

Dent is expected in court at 9 a.m. April 1 for an arraignment on the drug charge, Rohl said.

According to Rohl, prior to the arrest Dent took "a bottle of booze" to a blind man he sometimes helps. Dent, who works for Ford Motor Co., went to the man's home after his shift.

"To me, justice is having the person who done this to me locked up," Dent said. "I didn't do anything."

Yost also said the department began investigating before Dent complained about his treatment during the arrest.

"We started an investigation before Mr. Dent made a complaint and it was self-initiated," she said. "It was initiated immediately based on the department's policy to conduct an investigation whenever a serious amount of force has been used."

The state police's findings will be presented to the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, which will determine if any charges are filed, she said.

"Those are two proactive things we have done," Yost said. "And we're encouraging everyone to wait for the results of the investigation. Once we get the results, we'll act accordingly."

Earlier Wednesday, at least two dozen demonstrators gathered outside the Inkster Police Department and 22nd District Court building to protest the incident.

Under drizzly skies, the crowd marched along the sidewalk shouting, "No justice, no peace," and "RoboCop has got to go!"

The protest was organized by the Michigan chapter of the National Action Network, led by the Rev. Charles Williams II.

"We're here for one reason: These officers need to go. They need to be fired," Williams said. "Not suspended with pay, not allowed to sit at desks and get paid by the people."

After about a half-hour, protesters entered the police station around 11:30 a.m. and filled the small lobby.

Yost led the crowd back outside and briefly walked with the group as Williams demanded the officers be fired and members of the crowd called for a federal investigation.

Protesters Wednesday balked at the idea of Michigan State Police investigating the arrest since troopers responded to the Inkster call.

Rohl said Wednesday afternoon that he has requested that the Department of Justice get involved in the case.

Williams called Inkster the "new Ferguson."

"The findings came out in Ferguson that the Police Department was targeting African-Americans (and) the Inkster Police Department is doing the very same thing," he said.

Williams said the department does not adequately protect city residents.

"We need the Inkster Police Department to restore the trust to the residents and to those who have to drive through," he said. "I didn't feel safe coming to Inkster today. I don't feel safe right now."

Former Inkster Chief Hilton Napoleon, who was at the protest Wednesday, said the department should be disbanded. The department has 25 officers, including Yost.

"I would disband this department and turn it over to the sheriff's department," he said. "You do have good officers out here but you have enough bad apples to poison the system."

Napoleon said he tried to fight dysfunction during his tenure as chief.

"You have officers out here that need to go turn their badges in right now," he said. "I said that when I was chief."

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