Officer accused in rough arrest in Inkster fired
Inkster — A police officer captured on video punching Detroiter Floyd Dent during a January arrest has been fired from the Inkster Police Department, according to a union representative.
William Melendez was terminated Wednesday after a five-day suspension, Teamsters Local 214 business representative Al Lewis said Thursday.
"The supervisor on the shift did his investigation and evidently found nothing wrong because Officer Melendez was on the road for another six weeks after that," Lewis said. "It wasn't until Dent got an attorney and all of the sudden the video is on TV that they decided to fire this guy."
Melendez remains employed as a part-time officer in Highland Park, Lewis said.
Melendez is identified in an Inkster police report as one of the officers who arrested 57-year-old Dent during a Jan. 28 traffic stop. Video showing the rough arrest 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 by Melendez and he was beaten, Tasered and put into a chokehold during the arrest.
Melendez on Thursday told WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) he has been unable to share his side of the story while employed by the police department.
"There are two sides to every story, and so far, the public has only seen one side because at the time I was unable to discuss that," he said. "I am fired from the Inkster Police Department, therefore I no longer fall under their general orders or their policies and procedures."
Melendez said he is speaking out to counter claims made by Dent and his attorney.
"His attorney has a job to do," Melendez said. "He has a job to one, clear his client, and two, to obtain ... money for his client."
Lewis said he was in the meeting Wednesday when Melendez was fired. City manager Richard Marsh also was present, along with Police Chief Vicki Yost, a human resources representative, a city attorney and a finance employee, he said.
"We asked the city attorney (why Melendez was terminated), and he basically said the city manager decided to fire him," Lewis said.
Calls for comment to Inkster city officials were not returned Thursday.
The termination came before the completion of internal and state investigations into Dent's arrest, Lewis said.
"It seems to me you'd want to get all the facts before terminating someone from employment," Lewis said. "There's a (union) grievance filed, and we will pursue that avenue."
Lewis said he thinks the decision may have been influenced by pressure stemming from incidents nationwide in which officers have been accused of excessive force. Hundreds of protesters have gathered in Inkster at demonstrations calling for the officer's dismissal.
"They're in a tough spot. I don't say it was an easy decision, but they made the politically expedient decision," Lewis said. "Whether it's right or not is another story."
Melendez has been accused of aggressive policing in the past, according to court records.
He is being sued with the Inkster Police Department and six other officers in federal court in connection with a 2011 arrest. 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 — never was 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 is 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.
Following Dent's January arrest, the man originally was charged with resisting and obstructing, fleeing and eluding, and possession of cocaine, his attorney, Greg Rohl, said. All charges have been dropped except the possession charge.
Rohl said Thursday he anticipates a resolution next week on the remaining charge.
"I think (the prosecutor's office is) going to make the call that we've all been waiting for sometime next week," Rohl said. "We've got a bad actor that needs to be brought to justice and an innocent man that needs to be let go, and I think all those things are in the stars and it will happen soon."
Rohl said he could not comment on details of the expected resolution.
Meanwhile, Rohl said a judge on Wednesday ordered the Inkster Police Department to turn over booking footage in the case. The department initially submitted an edited version both to Rohl and to the prosecutor's office, Rohl said.
"I have the full arrest video but I'm looking for the full booking video," he said. "You can tell from the disjointed nature of it that there's some stuff missing ... and the judge authorized me to get (the full version) within 24 hours."
Rohl said he has not yet seen the full booking video but was told it depicts officers mistreating Dent while he was put into the system after the arrest.
"There's some conduct of the officers making light of the Mr. Dent, humiliating Mr. Dent, and perhaps using some racial epithets," he said. "That's my understanding from the person who has the video but she couldn't give it to me because the investigation is ongoing."
Rohl also said the prosecutor's office joined him in his request for the video.
"I wasn't even arguing with the prosecutor because the prosecutor was just as surprised," he said. "It's the actually police department that gave the prosecutor a redacted version."