Inkster cop in rough arrest cleared in ’03 misconduct

Candice Williams and Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Inkster — An Inkster police officer captured on film punching a Detroit man during an arrest in January has been accused of aggressive policing in the past, records show.

Officer William Melendez is being sued with the Inkster Police Department and six other officers in federal court in connection with an arrest in 2011.

According to the lawsuit, Melendez was among officers who jumped on Inkster resident Deshawn Acklin at a home and began to “choke him and beat him until he lost consciousness.”

Acklin — who was taken to the hospital after the arrest — was never charged with a crime, according to the lawsuit, which Acklin filed in 2013.

The case alleges Melendez violated Acklin’s constitutional rights and seeks more than $75,000 in damages.

It’s among several cases naming Melendez in his role as police officer, according to court records. In addition to the pending federal lawsuit, Melendez was involved in multiple lawsuits as an officer with the Detroit Police Department, records show, including a case in which he was indicted and later acquitted. The cases cost Detroit taxpayers at least $1.2 million.

Melendez could not be reached for comment Friday. Inkster City Attorney David W. Jones did not return a call for comment.

Melendez is identified in an Inkster police report as one of the officers who arrested Floyd Dent, 57, during a traffic stop Jan. 28. When a video showing the arrest was released by Dent’s attorney this week, the incident sparked cries of aggressive policing and led to calls for disbanding the department.

Police said Dent disregarded stop signs and refused to pull over, then resisted arrest and threatened them. They said they found a bag of crack cocaine in his car.

Dent said the drugs were planted and he was beaten and Tasered during the arrest.

Dent originally was charged with resisting and obstructing, fleeing and eluding, and possession of cocaine, according to Dent’s attorney Gregory Rohl. All charges have been dropped, except the possession charge.

Michigan State Police has said it is conducting an investigation on the incident.

Inkster Police Chief Vicki Yost did not return calls seeking comment.

According to the lawsuit in the incident involving Acklin, the Inkster man was visiting a friend’s home on Isabelle Street when police came into the house. Police said in court documents they were looking for a shooting suspect and Acklin fit the description.

Acklin said in the lawsuit he was exiting the bathroom when police arrived and he complied with orders to get on the ground. That’s when he said police handcuffed him and began to choke and beat him. He was also maced, according to the lawsuit.

Acklin, who said he defecated on himself and lost consciousness, was taken to Garden City Hospital for treatment. In court records, Melendez said Acklin was outside with others when police arrived and Acklin held an object in his waistband, ran to the side of the house and went inside before his arrest. He alleged Acklin resisted arrest.

Acklin was in police custody for three days before he was released without being charged, according to the lawsuit.

In an opinion filed last week by U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain denying summary judgment for the defendants for part of the lawsuit’s claims, Drain noted the photos Acklin provided the court showing his injuries from the arrest.

“These images — coupled with Acklin’s medical records ....constitute sufficient evidence indicating that Melendez’s purported actions were objectively unreasonable in light of Acklin’s clearly established constitutional rights,” Drain wrote.

Acklin’s attorney, Christopher Trainor, did not return a call Friday seeking comment.

Melendez also was involved in lawsuits as an officer with the Detroit Police Department.

Melendez was indicted in June 2003 with 18 other Detroit officers in a federal case that involved multiple counts of planting evidence, assault, conducting searches without warrants and stealing money.

Melendez was charged with use of a firearm during a crime of violence and possession of a stolen firearm. Eight of the officers, including Melendez, were acquitted by a jury in May 2004.

In another case, the city paid a settlement of more than $1 million in 1999 to the family of Lou Adkins in a wrongful death lawsuit after Melendez and another officer shot Adkins three times during a 1996 stop in southwest Detroit. Adkins, unarmed during the traffic stop, had allegedly struggled with the officers.

Melendez retired from the Detroit Police Department in 2004 after more than 10 years on the job, said Mark Diaz, president of the Detroit Police Officer’s Association.

“Allegations and accusations are simply that,” Diaz said. “We have to be very careful on that. Yes, we have an officer who is accused of things in the past. I’m only aware of the 2003 case when the officer was acquitted by a jury of his peers.”